If you want to watch a particular TV show or movie on the Internet, you have check the various streaming providers such as Netflix or Amazon Prime to find out if they make it available to you.
Depending on where you live, you may be even limited in regards to the services that you can check. Netflix for example is not available in most parts of the world, and to my knowledge, there is not a single service available currently that you can subscribe to no matter where you live on the planet.
But even if you have choice, say you live in the United States which undoubtedly is blessed when it comes to streaming services, you will discover that fragmentation is an issue.
The reason here is exclusivity and behind the door deals. A recent example is the TV show 24 which has become an Amazon exclusive recently. You could watch it before on Netflix but that won't be the case anymore.
If you are a fan of the series and want to watch the show legally on the Internet, you'd have to use (and pay) Amazon for that.
But what if Netflix has exclusive shows that Amazon does not offer? Or if Hulu Plus has? Or any of the other streaming services?
You'd have to subscribe to several services to cover all shows that you want to watch. Or, and that is a likely solution, turn towards file sharing to download shows that you are interested in.
The popular streaming app Popcorn Time for instance shows how it is done. It is a very simple app that displays movies to you that you can stream. From old ones to brand new ones. And while it may not be legal to use it in your country, as the source of the movies comes from torrent files, it demonstrates how a next generation service should look like.
It is a bit like Napster but for movies, and there is no reason why another application could not offer the very same thing for TV shows as well, and why there cannot be a paid application as well.
Exclusivity may look good on paper. For the studios as they may get more money from deals, and for the service that gets the exclusivity as users may subscribe to it if they want to watch their favorite show.
But exclusivity can also backfire for the same reason for streaming services. If another service gets an exclusive deal, you won't be able to offer the show to your customers.
And customers, well, they are at the receiving end here. It is not feasible to sign up for multiple streaming services because it costs money to do so. While some may do so anyway, the large majority may stick with a single service or none at all for the time being.
One reason why TV show torrents are this popular is that they are universally accessible. There is only one pool and everyone has access to it.
And until a paid service comes along that is offering the same convenience and catalog, it won't drop in popularity.