Nearly all forms of media have come under pressure over the past few decades as the rise of new technology has brought alternatives and fostered piracy; traditional news has been usurped by free websites, blogs, and twitter; and music and videos has been torrented, ‘shared’ through social media and peer to peer sharing networks, and uploaded onto pirate websites. New methods of obtaining these products legally have started to emerge over the years – things like the iTunes store, metered paywalls on websites, and streaming services like Hulu and Spotify- but will they ever transplant the illicit system? Putting aside the cost, which will already deter many people, many of these services involve considerable lag time, especially for international users.
As an example, I am one of the people who is more than willing to pay for my favourite songs and TV shows. After all, this is the only way to ensure their financial viability, and, therefore, keep them on the air. Unfortunately, and thanks in large part to exclusivity deals signed by Australian TV networks I have no doubt, there is an incredible lag time between when a show airs in America and when it is available for me to download. Case in point, I purchased the season pass of the Big Bang Theory Season 6 last year, however, iTunes inexplicably stopped releasing the episodes in the middle of November. There was a 3 month lag between when episode 9 and episode 10 were released. During which time episodes kept being shown on American television, Australian television, American websites and pirate websites. Conceivably I could have logged onto a pirate website like SurftheChannel or used to a proxy and visited a website like Hulu and seen the episodes for free and within hours of them airing on American television, with absolutely no benefit to either content producers or providers.
As the Music industry learned the hard way, there are more than enough loyal fans out there willing to pay for content. Unfortunately, that content has to be available, otherwise there is really no incentive to pay. I am a fan of Big Bang Theory, but I hadn’t been out of the country for much of those three months I am not sure whether I would have been that much of a fan. The same goes for things like international sporting events, which are often played on a lag around the world by commercial stations while streamed free online. I would much rather watch the Formula 1 legitimately and on my television, but when the choice is between watching it online or getting the results ruined for me by the 24 hour news cycle or by people on Twitter, why would I wait and watch it the legitimate way? If content producers and providers want to get paid, they need to give people an incentive to do things the right way. They need to make the content easier to reach the legitimate way than the illegitimate way.
Just for good measure, here are some screenshots of the Big Bang Theory Season 6 comments section on iTunes. Many people do not appear to be happy (and these are just a few of them).