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Will On-Demand Viewing of TV Shows Stop You From Torrenting?

At a lunch table discussion the other day, we got to talking about the recent news about CBS and NBC offering some of their shows for $1 or $2. I wondered whether torrent users (specifically those that download currently airing TV shows) would change their tune. The reasons I hear for downloading essentially boil down to “They don’t support the business model I want. I want on-demand TV viewing.” Well, now the business model is taking shape, albeit with a limited number of shows. So I wonder: will torrent users stop downloading the shows that are available for a couple of bucks?

(A comment was also made during this discussion that downloading TV shows that have aired is legal, which would make the point moot. However, stories like this BBC article lead me to believe otherwise…)

About John DeNardo (13013 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

6 Comments on Will On-Demand Viewing of TV Shows Stop You From Torrenting?

  1. I don’t want on demand, I want time/place shifting. I’ll torrent a show so I can watch it later when and where I want and in the format I want, which is typically on my PC (or even on my PSP). I can’t do that with these network initiatives. I also think that charging money for a feed that already has commercials in it is crap too. I’d possibly consider buying a feed if there was no commercials included.

    I think they are headed in the right direction, they just aren’t there yet.

  2. This REALLY isn’t any different than loaning a tape to someone and let’s be honest. I only do it when i miss a show (typically) but I wouldn’t be watching BSG at all if it wasn’t for torrents.. I hope they leave well enough alone although I suspect it will be the cable companies (as you could see Rome, Sopranos, etc without paying their ridiculous fees…although, come to think of it, you’d definately need to pay SOMEONE broadband fees to do it anyway..hmm…)

    on a side note, JP, you have a dog!


  3. Note: The recent announcement (link now fixed) says downloads are to be commercial-free.

  4. So NBC and CBS will be offering their shows on demand through DirecTV or Comacast Cable. I say ‘meh’, for the place shifting reason above. The ABC deal sounds better because I can download it to my PC, but I’m guessing there’s some horrbily restricting DRM associated with it, which is a big ‘I’m out’ from me. And I’m not sure about paying anything to download a single episode of a TV series. It’s not like music which I’ll listen to over and over again, it’s a one or two shot deal. A typical season runs 22 episode so you’re shelling out $22/year for one show.

    More interesting to me would be a $5 – $10/month service which would allow me to download (DRM-free) files of the TV shows when/where I want and allow me to play them on anything. And be commercial free. I think there’s more value in that than in paying for one-offs. Of course, given my lack of TV viewing, I probably wouldn’t sign-up for that service either. I’ll stick to torrenting when needed.

    And yeah, I do have a PSP. It’s nice, but needs more and better games…

  5. 99 cents is about what I would pay to watch a show I could download to my PC and then render down to run on my PSP. Now thats the key – I want the DRM to be flexible enough so that I can have fair-use of the content. I want to be able to move it easily from my PC to my TIVO to my PSP and not feel that I am jumping through the proverbial hoops. This mentality extends to movies, music and games. I want to use the material as if I had purchased a hard copy of that entity and then ripped it for my personal use. But some genius in the machine figures that if they don’t put some overbearing big brother entity into the mix (In steps the Sony DRM machine), then I will be posting this content all over the web and causing them to lose money. The problem is that 99 cents does not give me content in that fashion – it gives me something that is either locked to a DirectTV box or on a single PC never to be moved to another.

    I have a big surprise for the powers that be – doing that will cost you more than being more flexible with the rights. Sony’s move is going to blow up in their face along with the whole CBS/NBC thing to download only to directTV customers. None of this will really diminsh the mechansims that are available today that allow users to obtain content to be used in a more open manner. To paraphrase, those who refuse to learn from the past will make the same mistakes in the future. Making it illegal does not stem the tide – you have to seek a mechanism by which the content is available to consumers in a way that protects the copyright holder but does not overly restrict its use. The problem is that these folks figure protection means over-restriction.

    We can get into a whole moral and ethical discussion as well, and that needs to be considered as well. Morally, is it wrong? Probably – its definitely ethically wrong to take something that you didnt pay for, but until the model can be built that makes it work for both sides – you will still have bittorrent networks and mechanisms by which content can be distributed outside the “official” channels.

    So, to summarize things for us – overly restrictive DRM is bad. Legitimate users should not be prevented from accessing the content in a way that is fair for them. Pirates laugh at DRM – trust me I know – and its not a pretty laugh either. These guys crack it faster than the content guys can slap it on. Therefore, look at alternative means to presenting the material – don’t make the entire season available, or let folks download the “hit song” at a reduced bit rate for free. The content providers might be surprised by the market that this might drive – there is enough evidence out there that demonstrates that this type of availability drives sales. Second, find a cost structure that works and makes sense. Don’t charge 99 cents cuz iTunes does that or make folks pay more for first run music – it just doesn’t work that way.

    Most folks are willing to pay for content – you just can’t continue to charge 20 bucks for a dvd or 15 bucks for a cd when I can buy blanks en mass for pennies.

  6. Tim covered my comments on this. Here here Tim!

    Best comment you made Tim “Pirates laugh at DRM – trust me I know – and its not a pretty laugh either.”

    Hey big media fat cats (like they are actually reading this, lol) STOP PUNISHING THE CONSUMER!

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