I don’t watch commercial television any more. Well, there are some exceptions like major sporting events. I have to be somewhere other than home, though, as I have not even bothered to tune in commercial stations in my current house.
So, over time I stopped watching commercial TV and started buying all my TV on DVD in complete seasons and eventually complete runs of shows.
That was fine for the shows I was already watching, but eventually those shows finished their runs and I needed new ones. As a result I own a few seasons of different series I have bought that I only ever watched a couple of episodes of before deciding that they weren’t for me. I figured that was the cost of refusing to participate in commercial TV.
Then, one day, I learned about stuff you could download off the internet. I wasted oodles of bandwidth on horrible quality rubbish that I now wouldn’t touch before learning to be more discerning. But downloading became for me what renting a video used to be. A way to check things out to decide whether I wanted to spend money on them.
Last year I was pretty sick for several weeks. To the extent that even surfing and otherwise time-wasting on the internet was a daunting proposition. Most of it was spent on the couch. Thanks to IMGUR, I had seen several people say good things about the TV show Community, so I downloaded the first season.
Within a couple of weeks I had seen all four seasons that had (up to then) aired. As soon as I was healthy, I went out and bought three of those seasons on DVD. For some crazy reason, every DVD store I visit has yet to stock season four even though season five is now several episodes in. I raved about it to friends (most of whom had never even heard of the show) and shared episodes creating a number of additional fans in my wake. I even have the 8 bit Community T Shirt in my collection.
None of this would have happened if not for file sharing. While I understand the show does air down under, it is low profile and most people just miss it.
By the way, I would describe Community as an intelligent comedy series. I was up to season 1 episode 3 ‘Introduction to Film’ which got me right in the feels before I realised that this was more than a comedy show with and ensemble cast and quick clever dialogue. I wont say any more other than, give it a try. No shows are universally enjoyable, but if my description in any way sounds like it might just be worth a look – then take a look. Most places that bother to stock it even have the entire early seasons at around $15 a pop.
All of this fandom, and money spent on the show that may never have happened if not for file sharing. Now that isn’t a side of the story you hear about in the media very often, is it?
Particularly when it comes to Australian films (swears in this link). While Aussie stuff is gradually getting more international attention, I simply think of it as the cinematic version of supporting your local economy. Buying Australian Made if you will.
But when you are talking about a budget Hollywood films earning millions of dollars that the 90% of those involved in making the film who were on wages will never see…
I have read articles suggesting that if you looked at all the people downloading from torrent sites, and had them each pay $1 in a Netflix style arrangement, you would earn more each year than was being spent by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) to combat piracy. That is just the American body. I haven’t investigated the veracity of such claims and so take them with a grain of salt.
But when you watch notorious sites like The Pirate Bay skipping around the globe going ‘neener neener‘ at authorities, you do have to wonder when someone is going to realise that this is a battle that has already been lost. Then wake up and stop fighting file sharing, and start exploiting it.
Anyone that has tried file sharing knows that the biggest challenges are finding quality, and finding enough people to share with. For some, also the part where you don’t want you mother or partner to walk in because of all the porn ads that frequent the popular torrent sites.
Just imagine for a moment if someone like HBO had an official site. HD copies of their shows, commercial free, becoming available to download. And if users log in with a valid email address to begin their download, they go in the draw to also win official merchandise for getting their copy from the official source? Why would anyone ever download a HBO show from another source again?
Add to that the obvious thing, advertising on the official website, and you have advertising revenue to boot. And proper advertising, not the standard dodgy, you are the 1 billionth visitor to this site – click here for a free virus. Or the ever popular, thousands of people are waiting just to have sex with you – click now and be swamped with offers.
A dramatic move like this would not be without repercussions on the nature of how things like advertising is sold, or international broadcasting rights deals take place. But the point that I keep coming back to is that fighting file sharing is futile. The horse has bolted. Find a way to embrace it! Create the next generation of televisions with inbuilt wireless modems and their own hard drives so that you can download and play your media from the single device. Evolve with the times or face the fate of any creature that fails to evolve to suit its changing environment (yes, I have been watching David Attenborough. I just bought Planet Earth, Africa and Trials of Life BBC series on DVD after being so amazed by the copies I had downloaded).
It could even result in shows reaching new audiences, or possibly even increased DVD sales in some demographics.
Oh, and with irony worthy of the drama, if anyone actually did think there was potential in this idea and wanted to pursue it by talking to the world leaders in file sharing technology, guess who that would be?