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May 01 2003

Move with the TV times. Is the growing phenomenon of downloading episodes a threat to the TV industry and if so what should be done about it?

I'd love to see the figures for the downloading of episodes but here's the Guardian's top ten downloads.

1 Star Trek (all series)
2 Buffy/Angel
3 24
4 Friends
5 West Wing
6 Japanese Anime shows (mostly involving robots)
7 Stargate
8 Farscape
9 Firefly
10 Smallville

I sort of agree with the comment about it being mostly an "American" problem, for a couple reasons, topped by this one: what is the percentage of people with broadband connections abroad compared to the market share that their television networks can reach? In most markets outside of North America, I would think that the former number would be quite small in comparison, thus not affecting the viewer numbers much. In my view, what makes the d/ling so troublesome to the networks is the demographics of the downloaders in NA: probably educated, probably decently well-off in order to have a computer with the broadband connection (and a large enough hard drive, and possibly a burner for archival purposes), and probably a demographic with very value eyeballs in the eyes (hehe) of ad execs. I guess this could get problematic if the d/ling started to affect the networks' ability to sell audience numbers on first-run eps...

But here's a creepy thought--what if the execs see that all the shows are well-written and arc-driven, and decide that shows that fit the "profile" of commonly pirated TV shows shouldn't be green-lighted? Then it really will become all-crap-tv. Scared now...
Very interesting article, and I must admit that I am a person who downloads episodes of Buffy, Angel and Firefly, but I do have my reasons. Usually I'll only download eps after I've seen them but before they arrive on DVD, that way it kind of acts as sort of a digital videotape. I don't see a problem with downloading, as long as you still watch the show and feed money into merchandise and DVD releases.
Just a few comments on this article.

"Now, within 24 hours of a show being broadcast in the US, people on the other side of the world can see it, too."

It's actually within 24 hours BEFORE (official) broadcast.

"In the UK, the BBC and Channel 4 appear relaxed about the online file sharing, saying it is more an issue for the US networks and programme makers."

Bollocks. Usenet is rife with Eastenders, The Singing Detective and every BritCom and SF series EVER made.

"...these kids go into a rental shop and put a DVD in their pocket without paying for it."

I think they'd find it's not kids but the 30 and up crowd doing most of the TV show downloading.
I think they'd find it's not kids but the 30 and up crowd doing most of the TV show downloading.

Plenty of whom go on to buy the DVDs as well, I suspect.

I too have downloaded from 5 of these 10 series, if you count dozens of "Japanese Anime shows" as one. And they're not "mostly involving robots" (wtf?).
I should point out that the print version ofthis article is illustrated with a large picture of Buffy and the Master.
Next up: renewing that battle against the VCR.
However, for Macintosh users, it's a little more tricky. The Mac OS has fewer of the decoders needed for the various formats. Indeed, the most popular file formats such as AVI and VCDs/SVCDs are not supported on the Mac.

Actually, this statement is only half true. Granted there are fewer encoders and decoders for the Mac (Although, how many do you need), but all of these formats DO have some level of support.

A multi-platform VCD/SVCD player exists at: http://www.videolan.org

And a divx plugin for Quicktime on the Mac exists at http://www.divx.com/divx/mac/
"only half true"??? Your to kind :-P Not supported my a**. Add MPlayer for Mac OS X to that list. As always most journalists who write about Macs wouldn't recognize one if it bit them in the a**...

http://mplayerosx.sourceforge.net/

Edite to add: Enterprise, Buffy, Angel or Firefly always are out as MPEG first. Maybe the writer should look up the term fact checking in a dictionary... Yeah, I#m cranky today, I'll shut up for now. Happy Labour Day to all those who have that today.

[ edited by PowerToThePeople on 2003-05-01 17:48 ]
I downloaded Empty Places yesterday night after missing it on Tuesday. I completely fail to see any even potential revenue lost to the networks because of this. If I had not downloaded the ep, I would either have 1) not watched it until it came out on DVD or was re-run or 2) borrowed the tape from one of my Buffy-watching friends. Either of these eventualities would have resulted in the exact same thing: I would have seen the ep without commercials completely legally. My being able to download the ep only heightens and reinforces my interest in their product.

I can understand a beef if people downloading the eps is decreasing the number of people who'd either buy the DVDs or watch the first-run episodes w/ commercials, but I just don't think that's true. The only common reason I see for downloading an ep is that it's not currently available in another format (with the exceptions of the DVDs already out, and I'd imagine that the people who downloaded Seasons 1-3 instead of buying them probably wouldn't have bought them anyway in most cases). The lack of availability would be what they'd need to address, and that's what TiVo is rendering obsolete. It sucks that they're so busy being threatened by that that they can't even understand how it empowers viewers.
I agree with grrarrgh00, I'm downloading Angel's Peace Out right now, but only because I messed up my VCR up and it didn't record. I have to record Angel every week because I'm busy on Wednesday nights. But I don't see what the difference between downloading and recording an episode is...except that the recorded version is way better. But if FOX would make them more avaliable I wouldn't have to download them. I mean, I pay for my cable and for my internet, I think I have the right to download an episode if I miss it on TV. They just need to put them out on DVD faster...like the Star Trek DVD's. Why can't they put Buffy and Angel out every couple of months? We know they have them all ready since season six is coming out everywhere that is not the USA and Canada this month.
So according to this article and the big wig's beliefs... if i ask my friend to record an episode because i missed it the day it aired.. then i'm "breaking the law"? eesh.

I wonder if there is extensive research out there finding out the percentage of people that d/l and never buy dvds and those that d/l and continue to buy dvds.

I (along with many of you) have several seasons of Buffy on vhs tape .. and yet i still buy the dvds.

The real "hardcore" fans are the ones out d/ling (getting their fix) of the tv shows, and no doubt they'll continue to watch the show/buy the merch etc.

It really irks me how the big wigs get so paranoid they start to lash out on their fans - the ones that feed them the $$.

Get the people who are making dvds and SELLING them for their own profit - that's the big bad .. eesh.
According to Jamie Kellner (head of Turner Broadcasting), you are stealing if you skip commercials while viewing a show. Big media wants it all, if it's not careful, it could lose everything.
We don't have UPN & WB affiliates here, and it's not available from anywhere else on our DirecTV service. I download Buffy & Enterprise & Angel because it's the only way I can watch them.
Same here. I don't want to wait 6-18 months and get a crappy translation/dubbing on german TV. Maybe Apple should look into adding Movies and TV series to their iTunes-Music-Store :)
However...
I must say it is really annoying that my brother in Australia downloads the Buffy and Angel episodes before I get to see them on network TV in the US. I agree that downloading the eps is a good thing, and allows people on the other side of the world to see the episodes earlier BUT the file sharing services should be a bit more morally diplomatic and have them available for download only after they have aired for the first time in any country.

Shows are put on the air because of advertising revenue that comes from those shows getting viewers. If people download instead of watching, those shows get cancelled. It's an easy equation.
How many people have the ungodly bandwidth and time to bother downloading?
like others I have no UPN affiliate. In order to see season seven, and see it this year, I've had to download all of it as it comes ... it takes me days usually to get a file worth watching and it takes up a ton of hard-drive space. It's a real pain in the ass, I would much rather sit back and wait for it to come on TV on Tuesday, instead of waiting til some time on Thursday ... or later.

This is just like Napster everything before it. People will steal and whatnot, it is not legal or perhaps right but we ... er um ... I mean they do it. Some shoplift, some tape, some burn, some download etc. etc. Yes the man loses a little money...

BUT on the flip-side of this there is a dedicated base of fans who want every legal and non-legal product they can get the hands on dealing with their fan-type addiction. They already have all the Buffy DVD's etc. and want more. This is a failure in marketing! It is not that people do not want the products available it is that the products are not available or available quick enough. Many would rather "consume" valid products than cheap imitations. I hope that the entertainment industry is taking note and trying to improve these practices while they continue to criticize their most dedicated customers.

These behaviors indicates that there is a market for this sort of thing, the entertainment industry needs to stop bitching about it, make a legal better quality versions, and market them. I would gladly watch commercials if I could watch Buffy on my computer without days of "fishing" for it, and without commercials I might even put down some money.

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