What’s With Those TV and Movie Studio People?

Photo by Daniel O'Brien (c) 2011I’ve been seeing a lot around the place about piracy of late. The topic seems to pop up in my tweetstream a moderate amount and almost every episode of Frame Rate [1. Frame Rate is a fairly good, weekly live vodcast about all things to do with video-entertainment – movies, TV shows, and online videos. It’s also available for download afterwards either as a vodcast or as an audio-only podcast (which is how I listen to it – normally when doing some painfully monotonous task at work). The online network that broadcasts it is could the TWiT network and has some truly awesome shows that I can not recommend highly enough. Checking out This Week in Tech and This Week in Google is a must for anyone interested in the tech world who wants to be entertained. Hell, for that matter, just check out anything Leo Laporte does. Be warned though, he’s a fantastic salesman. I’ve bought a few services and products after he’s advertised them on one of the podcasts I listen to.] that I listen to mentions it a few times.
I’m sick of having to hear about it. I’m especially sick of all the bullshit lies that you hear about it [2. There are a startling number of misrepresentations out there. My readings suggest that there are a lot more of these on the side of the copyright-holders than on the side of the copyright-infringers. Of course, that doesn’t get beyond the basic point that copyright-infringement is illegal and that it is wrong to unilaterally decide that the rules shouldn’t apply to the copyright-holders. Even if you think that current copyright laws are ludicrous, that doesn’t mean that those who created the copyrighted material under the expectation of those laws don’t have a right to expect those rules to apply. There are many, many links I could provide here but I’m going to save them for a less ranty post about the copyright-wars somewhere down the track. In the meantime if you’re especially interested, I recommend googling piracy stats or checking out the twitter feed of @ioerror who occasionally links to some compelling material.].
The part I want to bitch about though is the stupidest part of the whole thing. I want to buy content. I want to buy TV eps. I want to buy movies. I want to buy computer games.

Oh. Wait. I do buy computer games.

Why? Well mostly it’s Steam’s fault. It makes it simple for me to buy games. I rarely have to wait more than a few days after the US release – hell, most of the time I get it at the same moment. Better yet, with a few very notable exceptions, the DRM isn’t particularly intrusive. I can even play the game on any computer capable of running it. Anywhere in the world. All I need to do is install the Steam client and install the game. Doesn’t matter if I’ve installed it on one computer or a thousand. All I have to do is log in to my Steam account and off I go.

It shocks me that this is not even remotely possible with tv shows or movies. I would happily spend a couple of hundred dollars a month on buying TV shows. Except that there is no way I can get them and then actually watch them in a useful fashion. That’s before I even start to look at the timing issues.
A computer game you can play months or years after it has come out and it’s unusual for it to have been ruined for you. TV shows are an entirely different state of affairs. The most extreme example I’ve come across is ABC’s Q&A. Before it was live-streamed on ABC News-24, I had to avoid twitter, facebook, and, well, the entire internet for half-an-hour every Monday night. It’s no different with any other TV show, though the timeframe is normally a little bit expanded.
Twitter, even when I’m being careful, has ruined season finales of both NCIS and Bones for me. The new Simon Pegg movie, Paul, isn’t due for release in Australia for another few weeks. I’ve already accidentally read so much about the plot that I’m not sure there’s much to be gained from seeing it at the cinemas.

But I digress. I haven’t been tempted to pirate a computer game since I started using Steam on a regular basis a few years ago. Today, I bought my 100th game (and that’s not including all the gifts and multi-packs that I’ve bought). A sizable number of those games I’ve never even got around to playing. They were easy to buy and I was a little bit interested, so I did.
I don’t understand the people who own the rights to TV shows. I want to pay you for your content. But by the time they actually make it available to me in a useful format, there’s no reason my buying it. I’ve lost interest. I’ve found something new and shiny to pay attention to. Or maybe Steam just has a sale on and I’m going to spend the entire weekend buying half a dozen games and playing maybe one of them.

Eventually, the show or the movie gets to a local television station. Of course, that never actually works for me. My social calendar is full and chaotic at the best of times. I can never guarantee I’ll be in the one place to watch the one TV show week in and week out. And if I miss an ep, then chances are I’m not going to watch the next one.
So, I wait for  the DVD and blu-ray to come out. There are always a few shows good enough that I’ll wait this long and a few movies that I just want to add to my collection. Not nearly as many as if I could impulse purchase them when I want to watch as a digital download, but some.
I bought Scott Pilgrim vs the World the other day. I love this movie. I saw it three times at the cinemas (a personal record) and I’ve seen it twice since then. I’d happily watch it again now. Except, I won’t.
I bought the blu-ray a few weeks ago and watched it with a friend a couple of days ago. From when I put the blu-ray into the player, it was over a minute-and-a-half of sitting through bull-crap ads, anti-piracy wankery, and various “blu-ray-only-internet-special-features” before we even got to the main menu. I thought about watching it again yesterday. Instead, I decided to play Monday Night Combat because I couldn’t be bothered waiting around to be lectured at for being an evil pirate by the product I’d recently paid for.

I really don’t understand. The money is there to be made. I am most definitely not the only person sitting at home with a credit card, time to kill, and a desire for good television. When will the TV and movie studios stop treating their consumers like criminals and actually provide us with a product suitable for this century and not the middle-third of last century?

I want to buy it, if only they’d sell it.

**** Footnotes ****

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