Over the past decade the way we watch TV has changed dramatically with the launch of video on demand from place such as the BBC iPlayer, 4OD, Netflix and Hulu and this is where many believe, including myself, the future of television lies. This way of distributing content is all good and works up to a point, that point being only people in the intended countries want to watch the content that’s on these platforms. Which just isn’t a reality with people being exposed to media from all over the world.
It’s quite common practice for tv programs from the US to be shown right across the world but usually shown weeks if not months later on the odd occasion they’ll be show just a few days later, but in a world where everything is instantly reacted to on Twitter or review sites which makes it hard for almost everyone to avoid spoilers on big plot points and the longer between the original broadcast and the date you watch, the more chance you have of accidentally happening upon a spoiler.
The Game of Thrones season 3 finale had over 1 million illegal downloads within 24 hours of it being broadcast. When it aired it had almost 5 and a half million viewers. So why do people choose to download shows. It’s mainly out because of a lack of legal ways to watch these shows. In the United States Game of Thrones is shown on HBO which for those that don’t know is a premium subscription TV channel, it has around 30 million subscribers out of 115.6 million homes with a television in the United States. In the UK it is shown on Sky which has 10 million subscribers out of 26.8 million homes with a television. That leaves a large proportion of the population in both countries that don’t have any legal way to watch Game of Thrones so people to to torrents which are widely available just by searching Google.
This past week at the time of writing this, the final episode of Breaking Bad was aired and was record breaking in terms of viewing figures with 10.28 million people, higher than any other of it’s episodes, within 12 hours it had 500,000 downloads. Which but it on course for the same amount of downloads as Game of Thrones. The difference with Breaking Bad it that each episode was then put onto Netflix just a few hours later so it could be watch in other parts of the world, which creates a more widely available legal way of watching Breaking Bad. I’ll openly admit I’ve downloaded tv shows in the past because I’ve had no other way of being able to watch it but with Breaking Bad every monday morning at 9AM i’ve watched the new episode on Netflix because it a easier way to watch than having to find a torrent, although that wouldn’t be very hard with a show so popular as Breaking Bad, and I don’t have to wait to download it I can just watch it straight away. I pay for Netflix every month and AMC and Netflix have struck a deal allowing the new episodes to be uploaded within a matter of hours of original broadcast giving it around 37 million potential viewers worldwide meaning people don’t have to pirate it.
My overall point is this, if Television companies made deals with legal streaming sites like Netflix or Lovefilm it would expand their potential audience for their show, admittedly this would mean that the sites would have to buy the rights for the shows.
The problem is when people getting into a habit of downloading these TV shows they’re not likely to stop and if you do want them to stop the way content is distributed needs to changed, it’s already going in the direction it needs to be as with the final season of Breaking Bad but it more show went this way it would be for the best.