Fans of shows on The CW like “The Vampire Diaries” no longer have to wait three days after broadcast to watch them online.
Starting Thursday night, the wait time will be, at most, eight hours before The CW streams full episodes on CWTV.com and its mobile apps.
Shows will stream with the same number of ads they had on TV.
The move is designed to cut into the popularity of pirated streams.
The network, jointly owned by CBS and Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros., said 20 percent of online streams of its shows were unauthorized. Half of those were within three days of the original broadcast.
The shortened wait times have been available since last year to paying subscribers of Hulu Plus, which streams the shows with fewer ads.
“I do think we can make a cut into piracy,” said Rick Haskins, The CW’s executive vice president of marketing and digital programs. “It’s going to take a while for the word to get out.”
Previously, The CW had kept its shows off the Internet for 75 hours to encourage people to watch on TV. That allowed the network to get more credit with Nielsen, which measures TV audience sizes. Nielsen ratings are crucial in determining how much advertisers pay for commercial spots.
But The CW found that putting as many commercials online as it did on TV didn’t cause people to click away. It measures online viewers with Google’s DoubleClick service.
Haskins said The CW stands to benefit if it can entice online viewers to switch from watching on illegal sites to its own.