The present and future of post production business and technology

How has the Internet changed viewing windows for Programs?

I was reading and article on TorrentFreak discussing how the unaired (in the US) finale for Prison Break is already available via bittorrent sites. 

For those not following along, Prison Break wrapped up its run recently, without being renewed. Fortunately the producers and writers had enough notice that they were able to wrap up storylines for a neat ending. (I wish more shows would do that – even if it meant doing a special for the following season to wrap stuff up. But I digress.)

What’s different is that Fox didn’t really show the last two episodes on US television, withholding them for July 21st release on DVD. This is called artificial scarcity, or more accurately an attempt to create scarcity where it really does not exist, since these episodes were shown in non-US territories. The global nature of media consumption being what it is, there’s no way that program owners can artificially limit access, once it’s been broadcast or made available anywhere. 

In fact, it’s one of the things that will drive non-authorized viewing that does not accrue to the producer/copyright owner. 

Here’s the message if you’re a content owner: do not try and manipulate your audience, they’re smarter than you are. If you won’t provide your customers with:

  • the programs they want to watch
  • on the schedule they want to watch them
  • at a “price” they’re prepared to pay

then you don’t have a business any more.

The Internet was designed to route around “damage” (even survive nuclear war). Artificial limitations based on territory might have once worked, but the world has changed. When your environment changes there are two alternatives: adapt or die. Apparently big  media has chosen “die”.

It’s not just this isolated case. When the modern series of Dr Who was held back from US release, but broadcast in the UK, it was downloaded over 5 million times. (Didn’t hurt the ratings though.) Australia, where there are too few outlets for programming anyway, frequently doesn’t get new programming from the major studios until months, or even years, later. Not surprising, Australians download a lot of unauthorized content because the content owners will not provide a legitimate alternative.

What we’re seeing is a broken system where the content owners will not listen to their  customers, so the customers take things into their own hands, providing the product the content owners should have been providing all along.

The fact that content owners want to charge about 2-3 times for every viewing than what they ever got from advertising revenue just adds insult to the “injury” of not serving your customers’ needs.

Like I said, the two choices are adapt or die. The old status quo is not an option.