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The Many Motivations Of Movie Piracy

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?)

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  • Shane Ross · February 8, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    Comedy Central streams THE DAILY SHOW and COLBERT REPORT online for free…the next day. So if I missed the show last night, no problem, I see it online the next day. Yeah, there are commercials, But 1 per break…I can live with that.

    • Alex Gollner · February 8, 2013 at 12:44 pm

      Shane, pity Comedy Central / Viacom doesn’t have global web advertising deals in place so people in other countries can see The Daily Show online.

      Here in the UK the Comedy Central site has a few clips and links to episodes for sale on iTunes – despite the fact that the show is shown on a subscriber- and advertsing-supported channel.

    • Alex Gollner · February 8, 2013 at 12:51 pm

      Shane, just checked the Colbert Report on iTunes. It isn’t shown on any UK channel, so can only legally seen this way. Each 21 minute SD episode costs £1.89. That’s 14¢ per minute!

  • Alex Gollner · February 8, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    The current problem is that advertisers will pay more to access you than you want to pay to access the shows you watch.

    If the price of production can be reduced a little and we can demonstrate to advertisers that their access to us is not what they’re willing to pay, the economic imperatives will change.

    • Author comment by Philip · February 8, 2013 at 12:56 pm

      It’s cheaper if you get a season pass (or was when they offered season passes, don’t know if they still do) but it was still outrageously expensive for what it is. We stopped watching, although Greg catches snippets of both shows that are pointed to in social media. I just gave up.

  • Eric Hansen · February 10, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    I originally purchased season passes of the Daily Show to watch them while on the treadmill/elliptical/bike at the gym. I eventually stopped buying them because they started running every interview long, which you can only get on the website. I hate the ads, but I would rather see the extended interviews as part of the episode (not a separate clip to view at a later point in time).

    I you have a moment, please read my blog post about the current season of Archer having ads for FX in the iTunes downloads:

    Since pirates (and most TV viewers) hate ads, a shift to more product placement and branded content seems inevitable. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to catch a plane to work on the next Red Bull Signature Series event.



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