Why do people download materials they’re not authorized to download? The “industry” says because people want everything for free, but actual research in the recently released Copy Culture In The US & Germany survey report from the American Assembly one small but especially interesting component is the list of reasons given for downloading TV shows and movies. The American responses were pretty evenly distributed among the various key reasons, and serve as a laundry list of things that piracy does just slightly better, or slightly more permissively, than most legitimate sources.
I’ve long argued that “piracy” is a business model problem, not a criminal one, and the this study supports that hypothesis.
While price was one of the top three reasons, this hardly paints a picture of penny-pinching freeloaders—rather, it shows emerging trends in media consumption that distributors and rightsholders simply can’t keep ignoring. Absolutely none of these responses are surprising, because they are exactly the way people have been interacting with the majority of content online for years now. They share, they use multiple devices, they expect comprehensive access and a choice of sources, they want access as soon as possible, and they are put off by obtrusive advertising.
Now, of course, advertising supports most media consumption in the traditional model, particularly before packaged media on DVD and Blu-ray. The problem with advertising, and why I’m generally negative about it, is the most advertising is not relevant for my needs. (I will never buy tampons, or SUVs, or fast food, or most of the other things that are advertised.)
Advertising that is relevant to the viewer’s current interest is not considered intrusive, it’s informative. The future model(s) for Television will continue to include advertising supported content, but I’d rather pay a reasonable fee – either per program or a subscription – than enjoy it free with advertising.
But it’s the “reasonableness” of what old media wants to charge for access that I question. When AMC gets 40c per subscriber per month from the cable companies that carry it, $1.99 per episode of Mad Men seems out of whack. Even a season pass for The Daily Show still costs around 60c a show, something disposable and worth (to me) no more than 10-20c per show.
Even then Comedy Central would be doing better than from cable subsribers. More relevant is that the networks get from 25-65 c per show per viewer from advertising.
Give us fair pricing, total availability and the piracy problem will mostly disappear. (Mostly because there are some who will never pay. But they weren’t going to ever be customers, so who cares?)