Pilot and screener leaks just don't matter

by Paul William Tenny

Janko Roettgers wrote a post for NewTeeVee early this morning talking about shows in the new fall lineup that had their pilots or premiers "leaked" onto bittorrent trackers. The thing is, I think they put way too much weight into the effect these leaks have either intentional or incidental. If 45,000 people download the pilot of Fringe, and supposedly that's how many did the first day it was available, then what is a network that needs and wants 377 times that number of people to watch it on TV care?

The first thing you've got to understand is that people who pirate the pilots are going to pirate that show matter what. Those aren't TV viewers you'll gain if the show is good, or potential or existing viewers you'll lose if it sucks. They don't want much TV, they steal what they want and don't care what the consequences are.

Some of them may spend money on the DVD set, but that isn't a factor until after the first season wraps up, so what are you left with?
Bloggers and the online media need a story, and I suppose this is as good as any. The pirates will find a way to get their hands on the pilots and well intentioned but law breaking bloggers and media pundits will rationalize downloading it for review since it's already out there, and make certain judgments about the shows quality. They'll say it has great promise, or is the worst thing since Cave Men, as if you can tell anything about a show from its pilot. Perhaps three or four of these will pop up online where the rest of the print media can pick up on it and then that will be the story.

When the show does actually air, the first thing out of anyone's mouth will be "x and x were right two months ago" even when you've got two contradicting opinions that really just cancel each other out.

Anyway, these things just don't matter. Maybe some suit in a dark office somewhere is hitting Google every five minutes looking for the latest pirate review of their pilot but there's nothing they can do about it. These shows are in the middle of their first order and any changes made today won't show up until between the third and sixth episode, maybe later than that. Heroes creator Tim Kring knew very early on that the second season of Heroes had problems but because of the delay between production and broadcast, the only changes that could be made were in the last few episodes of that season.

Sweating over bad reviews of a pilot doesn't do anyone any bit of good.

We're also talking about different demographics. The networks may play to the young male crowd, the same one that dominates piracy ranks, but pirates by definition don't buy anything to begin with. They may look like what the networks are after, but they really aren't. So you're trying to judge the popularity and quality of a show based on how many times it's downloaded or reviewed by a very tiny segment of a bum demographic.

And I don't really see much of a threat here for the networks in having pilots or premiers leaked. I've recently been lucky in getting the Stargate Atlantis 5th season premier for early review -- a little late since it was originally sent out on the June 8th but that has everything to do with me being late to the gig -- and I'm very grateful for it. Ripping it and uploading it somewhere would be easy but again, what's the point? What is there to lose or gain when you've got not even 100,000 people checking it out, out of the millions you need to see it on TV?

Women don't really pirate TV shows or movies and advertisers sure as heck aren't going to care what pirates think.

Now I'd never do that and I have no respect for anyone that would, but I just don't see the damage here (or the gain), or really I guess what I'm saying is that I don't see the significance of it either way. Premiers are events with lots of people, lots of hype, very targeted advertisements and a long road with expectations and milestones. Lots of opportunities and plenty of chances for failure. It's so much bigger than a simple leaked pilot that nobody should even be giving press to stuff like this.

Don't give attention to selfish criminals and don't take away from the event that is the fall television premier season. Don't sweat a few negative reviews from pirates who don't know what they're talking about and don't care what impact their words have. Don't give those words impact, is what I'm trying to say.

Piracy is bad no doubt, but it's really not worth wasting time on when there are better things to write about, things that are more deserving of attention than a bunch of cheap kids with no jobs.

Thank you Scifi/NBC-U for sending me the Atlantis screener and thank you for not punishing the press (and bloggers like myself) because some people never grew up. I'm looking forward to watching the premier sometime next week and publishing my review, probably on Thursday. The people at Scifi were amazing to me this past week and I've been given access to the screeners (as they come out) for all of Scifi's shows, which is just an incredible show of trust for a site like this that has no crediblity, only a hope to contribute something positive.

It's embarrassing to have other people betray that trust for no personal or even professional gain, only their own amusement apparently. But there are people that appreciate and rely on things like this, and Scifi has my thanks for it...

..even if they did ruin the return episode with one Mr. Carson Beckett.
in Digital Media, Television


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Paul, I think you're underestimating the power of the P2P audience. I've quoted from file sharing websites in my article on Newteevee, but many of these folks also go to mainstream sites like TV.com and review the shows there. Some of these shows already have a dozen reviews even though they won't air for another two or so months.

And don't even get me started on fan sites. If Lost has taught us anything, then it's that fan sites matter, probably more so than some of the mainstream media reviews. Fringe already has quite a few fan sites, and leaked pilots are like crack for those folks.

It's not just about audience numbers anymore, it'd abaout an audience that talks back. An audience that has the power to generate or kill the buzz needed for a show to survive.

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