Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Game of Thrones sets new record, but HBO is not pleased

Word has gone out that the HBO hit show Game of Thrones has set a record for the most illegal downloads in the first 24 hours after airing of any single TV show in history.

This 'accomplishment' highlights the dark side of the Internet, where sites dedicated to providing black market videos, often via the BitTorrent system, flourish. And while many are more than willing to admit that their actions are in violation of multiple copyright laws, their desire to see the shows as they air is stronger.

HBO, and almost all of Warner Brothers shows, are not provided to legal services such as iTunes and Amazon until months after the season is over if at all. In fact, the CBS airing show Person of Interest is almost at the end of its second season and the only online video ever to hit iTunes was an 'introduction' video that appeared for about 3 weeks around the time the DVD set for Season One hit the market, only to disappear without a trace.

In the early days of iTunes TV show offerings many studios and production companies spoke out against the service saying that it would only provide pirates with cleaner copies of shows since they wouldn't have to rely on 'wild feeds' (aka the satellite transfers to the networks) for unmarked video. But the myriad of banners, popups etc didn't stop pirates and while a few folks may have figured out how to crack the DRM from sources like iTunes, there has been a surge in HD offerings via the cable companies and the pirates have no lack of resources for their activities which now provide crystal clear video to those that are either too cheap to subscribe to HBO or can't because they are not in the US.

This news, to me, highlights how the studios and networks are stuck thinking old school. People want to see the shows now, they want to talk about them now. Lost was perhaps the first big water cooler show but it was not the last. And it is often cable shows like Game of Thrones, Dexter etc that have folks chatting. Putting the shows on legal sources a year from now grinds this to a halt and since many shows are best viewed without the intimate knowledge of the plot that overhearing your co-workers chatting without you will give, folks will get a copy however they can. Those overseas suffer the email list/forum variant of this and no matter how much you simply say 'then don't read' details seep into things. Yes some folks will live up to their fears and use the materials to provide them illegally to others but many pirates do it for reasons that can be dealt with by the studios, timing of availability being first and foremost

Other issues in this 'it's better to pirate' situation include pricing, which is often ridiculously high. Home disk sets come with major production costs and yet it is not uncommon to find a Blu-ray box set on sale at the local Best Buy or other box store for as little as $20. And yet the digital file sets run as high as $50-60. And then there's quality. Some shows are still not even in 720p which would put them on par with DVD quality (well on par enough for most) and there are seasons missing due to various contract issues. Getting everything up to the highest possible standards (and complete)  on legal sources really is a must unless studios want folks to keep downloading DVD rips, etc. Subtitles, alternate language audio etc are almost needed items. As are getting features on par with those physical sets. Including cutting out stunts like releasing 'box sets' that have features that would require someone that bought the season as it aired or shortly after to buy the episodes again. There's no reason for it when they could easily offer up those bit and pieces to previous buyers even if at small price. I feel certain the server coding exists for Apple extra to do this if the studios would allow it. Just as they could drop the SD track and offer only the one lineup and pricing with free upgrades as new tech allows for better quality and some kind of iTunes Plus like they did for music. These are the things that would make legal purchasing more appealing to those outside of the whole 'I pirate because I can' crew.

The ironic (?) part is that while HBO executives admit to being 'flattered' that folks are willing to pirate in droves so see the show, the creators have countered that if people could legally buy them even for 99 cents an episode and did, they could afford more FX etc.

So HBO, what say you to that? Are you willing to post the episodes now? And at a reasonable price (I'd say $1.99 for an 'hour' long show is more than reasonable especially if it is 1080p, will be upgraded as additional languages and video qualities are ready etc). Or will you remain flattered while you lose money.

No comments:

Post a Comment