Report: most piracy within 12-18 hours

by Paul William Tenny

Found a news clipping via NewTeeVee about some industry report saying that the popularity of pirated TV shows is at its absolute highest on a per-episode basis within 12-18 hours after initial broadcast. They find it interesting they think this is good intel for networks showing them that they should put newly aired shows up on their streaming sites ASAP. I find it interesting because that's extremely bad news for writers and actors that are currently getting screwed on new media residuals.
There's a 17-day window after the episode goes online where the networks don't have to pay a penny to the talent that made the show, but are free and clear to make money themselves from it. It doesn't take a genius to know that popularity wanes over time. No matter how popular a movie may be for example, it's not going to make as much two weeks into its run as it will make in its first three days. How anyone thinks that applies to movies but magically doesn't apply to TV shows is beyond me, but that's the deal the WGA took and it's probably the deal that SAG is going to war over.

Up until this point -- as a non-WGA member with no stake in this -- I thought perhaps there could be a fair window during which the networks get to make money while nobody else does. I held that opinion during the strike because there had to be some bargaining in there and it'd make more sense to give on that than just about anything else. I don't feel that way now, especially so after hearing about this report. If piracy activity tops out between 12-72 hours after initial broadcast, that means the general public interest is going to mirror it. It makes that 17-day window look more than generous, in fact it makes any window at all seem retarded.

I do feel though that maybe it was the right tactical move. It wasn't a good deal to make, and it has to be changed, and yeah I do feel like it was a mistake not negotiating a smaller window, but it's not the end of the world. Just because the DVD residual formula may be "impossible" to change, the WGA has a good shot at upgrading the new media residual system during the next set of negotiations. Not only with the WGA and SAG have their contracts up at the same time, there won't be any hugely conscientious issues on the table holding things up like there were this year. Reality may come back on the table, but it won't hang around for long -- maybe there will be gains made that'll make those demands unnecessary. DVD residuals will still be dead, that ship sailed a decade ago.

But more importantly the new media market isn't going to explode before the guilds have a chance to fix the network freeloader problem. It'll go up this year, and next year, and again in 2010, but it's not like there will be billions on the table in lost opportunities. When the time comes it'll still be a good deal to make for the AMPTP and it'll be a much calmer time, but there will be no excuses to be made -- this has got to get done.

The freeloader window has got to go away.
in Digital Media, Legal


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