Online piracy is one of the biggest issues in the TV and film industry in recent years. Millions of people stream, download and torrent content for free rather than paying TV subscriptions or buying DVDs. And since it has become even easier to get content for free, how are company’s supposed to protect themselves from piracy and how can they get people to choose to pay rather than get the content for free? A great place to start would be by looking at the most pirated TV and the reasons behind it, then we can start to think about the best way to eliminate piracy as much as possible.
Game of Thrones
HBO’s Game of Thrones was given the (un)desirable title of ‘Most-Pirated TV show over the internet in February, 2012. A single episode of the programme was estimated to receive up to 4,280,000 illegal downloads. One of the main reasons for piracy, in the case of US television, is the decision to launch in the US first and then later in many other countries, if at all. This is a strategy that is simply ineffective online as all the information is available within hours of the first viewing.
The fans of Game of Thrones, for example, want to be able to view content at the same time as everyone else all over the world and they are then able to participate in global conversations within fan groups and social media. Imagine 10-20 years ago, before you freely recorded TV or got it on demand, when you would turn up to school or work having watched the latest episode of a popular TV show or film. It felt isolating being the only person who had forgotten to watch it and this form of social anxiety is something that is still relevant today.
How harmful is it?
Game of Thrones director David Petrarca believes that piracy isn’t harming the show and that it may in fact be helping to build an audience creating a “cultural buzz”. Rose Leslie, who plays Ygritte, also believes this to be a massive complement to the whole show. But at the end of the day, people who watch the show illegally aren’t contributing to the expensive cost of production and many others. Forward thinkers such as Amanda Palmer are trying to encourage a different way of getting money from consumers by asking for it rather than demanding it.
HBO have said that they accept they are partly to blame for this title as in past years it was impossible to view some TV shows legally in many countries. The senior vice president of corporate affairs, Jeff Cusson, has promised to improve this issue in 2013 and will aim to make the content available in other countries within the smallest window possible. Unfortunately for HBO they are still thinking in terms of “within the week of the US premiere” whereas the internet thinks more in terms of hours. In addition to this HBO are still focusing on selling subscriptions as a way of people being able to see the show rather than turning their focus online, to where the problem lies.
If any company really wants to combat online piracy of their content they need to understand the demand and start thinking outside the box. Trying to make the current infrastructure slightly better isn’t going to make more than a slight difference, if it makes a difference at all. If you really want to beat online piracy there is only one way to do it; Offer more. It’s about getting smart with technology and thinking how you can be better than the service the pirates are providing. With the popularity of products such as Android TV, having an app where you could select your show and pay a small amount per view at the same as everyone else in the world could be a very popular tool.
Take inspiration from other companies like the BBC who have a ‘watch live’ feature on their website as well as the ability to download programs that will delete themselves after a few days. If HBO were to offer an online service where you could view live or, perhaps an hour or 2 later, download your favourite programme for free, they could be looking at least approximately 10 million hits to that site. If HBO were to allow advertising on the site and within the programme breaks… well you can imagine how much they could charge for those ads.
Of course, this comes with the draw backs of ‘betraying’ those who have already paid for subscriptions. If it is their main aim to encourage subscriptions then perhaps offer that as an add-free service. It is a simple online marketing strategy that is used by hundreds of products from phone apps to Facebook.
Ryan Holmes is a freelance copywriter in London. His passions in life are art, history and the film industry. He quotes “I could not live without my Android TV.”