Stumbled across an article in Forbes from back in April, referring to a New York Times columnist’s confessing to illegally using someone else’s HBO-Go password to watch the premiere of Game of Thrones. GOT is known as the most pirated show on television.
I know piracy is prevalent, but I wonder how much of it comes from people with cable who just aren’t paying for premium channels. How many people who would have subscriptions forgo them in order to stream or download illegally? I don’t imagine too many families or even groups of roommates sitting around someone’s tablet searching for a none “broken” illegal link to a program. If you’ve got a cable television subscription, it’s not a big deal to add a premium station or two.
The real issue is that more and more people are choosing to opt out of watching “television” the old-fashioned way, and are now watching exclusively through the Internet. Most network shows are available albeit with commercial interruption free the day after they are initially broadcast.
Some shows do have to be paid for. AMC offers episodes of Mad Men and The Walking Dead through Amazon for $1.99 an episode. Viewing legally means not having to worry about picking up malware and viruses, or deal with pop-up ads and other annoyances. This in addition to its being both ethical and legal. I’m sure people use illegal sites to watch AMC offerings anyway, as some people just can’t wait until the next day or love the idea of getting something for nothing, but my guess is that there is less stealing going on proportionally than for HBO. This is because neither HBO nor Showtime offer an option for non-subscribers to watch current programming legally. You can get a cable or satellite television subscription or you can wait a year or so for the disks.
If HBO-Go offered services to people who don’t have cable television, or allowed one-time streaming of current episodes for a per episode fee, they’d be able to cut down substantially on theft. If all channels offered access to their shows at the same time as they are broadcast, they could probably defeat the pirates and make more money.
The premium stations wanted to make Internet-only subscriptions available, but the cable companies prohibited it. Runaway piracy of popular programs is a by-product. Understandable that these dinosaurs want to put off extinction for as long as possible. But how long until everybody gives the boot to cable television as we know it? The cable companies are like the publishing houses and bookstore chains of a few years ago, dismissing e-books as a fad when they should have been figuring out a new survival strategy.
(Enjoy this post? Marion’s books are so cheap, you don’t have to pirate them!)