Opening the TV borders

A few months ago I touched on the matter of what to do in order to save TV. Today, I’d like to expand on point #3 of that article.

I had no plans to write a new article about it, but today the biggest Greek TV channel, MEGA Channel, enforced IP-based blocking on its otherwise free episodes of their hit series “The Island”. This is the only Greek TV show worth seeing in the 45 years that Greek television exists. The rest are trash. The online streaming of the show on MEGA’s own web site was the only way for the Greeks abroad to watch the show legally. Yes, the show has been sold in some other countries too, but chances are that most Greeks abroad won’t be able to get a hold of it, or if they do, it will be many months/years later. And Netflix doesn’t carry Greek titles either.

What these TV channels don’t realize is that IP-based blocking is bad for business. When TV network “A” sells the rights of a show to another, TV channel “B”, they should not sign the contract if there is a prerequisite to block the free streaming to all other countries. The assumption here is that if people of country “B” watch the show online for free, they won’t watch it when they will broadcast it on that country a few months down the road. So TV channel “A” fears that their show won’t get picked up in international syndication, or that its value will drop, so they block the IP addresses of all other countries — including those who are not interested in licensing the show in the first place.

And that’s the crucial point: this assumption is wrong.

The viewers who watch a show online, are the ones who don’t watch regular TV. They either DVR/TiVO shows, or they watch Hulu/Netflix, or they simply, pirate them on Bittorrent. This group of people will try to do anything to get its hands on the show they want to watch. Waiting 3, 6, 12 months for a show to get shown on their countries via the traditional method is not acceptable. In the age of the Internet, things are expected to be instant. Hence, pirating is skyrocketing. I don’t believe that most of these viewers want to pirate, but they are offered no alternative.

The other kinds of viewers, the older demographic who watches TV before they go to bed, these viewers will still watch a certain show on a traditional TV, no matter if everyone and their dog in the same neighborhood have already watched the same show 6 months ago online. Essentially, TV Channel “B” doesn’t lose money. The amount of viewers they would have had, they will still have no matter the free international stream or not.

If other countries don’t want to pay for such content, that’s their problem. They should produce their own content instead anyway. THEN they will get off their butt and produce good shows, instead of utter trash. Competition is good.

And why is it that there should be an international market for TV shows? I don’t think there should be one — at least not for countries where almost everyone has internet. For developed countries, there’s absolutely no reason why US should sell their content to them, when they could stream it to viewers directly, and have 100 million viewers per episode worldwide, rather than 10 million in the US only.

Of course, not all shows are suited for such large streaming exposure. Shows like “The Mentalist” that have million of viewers per episode, but only in the aging population, are better suited in the old model of syndication. But shows like “LOST” are pirated to death because no one wants to wait not even a second after they broadcast in the US!

So why aren’t they do all this, you ask. The missing piece, and the part that’s lagging behind in the whole story, is the advertisement industry. This is what is holding us back. Today, there is no international ad agency that is able to deliver targeted video ads, at least not for viewers outside the big US cities. Therefore, ad revenue from online ads remains way smaller than that of live TV.

In the text/banner market, there is such an international ad agency that has a good record. It’s called Google.

But on the video side, there’s nothing yet. Even Hulu, offers us some nice-looking 480p video, and then it cuts on irrelevant commercials that are served to us in QVGA 4:3 format, with horrible pixelation. Not only I’m not going to buy the advertised product, but I want to throw up on my screen when I see these commercials. It’s like no one at Hulu knows anything about video to ask these people to export their ads properly from their video editor?!?

So until this problem is fixed, with ad agencies growing up and seeing the big picture (and learn how to use a video editor), I think we will be prisoners of our own IP addresses.

13 Comments »

Michael C. wrote on February 1st, 2011 at 3:06 PM PST:

\This group of people will try to do anything to get its hands on the show they want to watch. Waiting 3, 6, 12 months for a show to get shown on their countries via the traditional method is not acceptable.\ – Have you done a proper poll? 3 months is acceptable to me, for example. Especially for a movie. If it is a soccer game or a Formula One race, then the sooner I watch it the better. On another hand, I may not watch it at all if I get ahold of it in a month after the event.

\I don’t believe that most of these viewers want to pirate, but they are offered no alternative.\ – C’mon. The alternative is simple: do not watch.

\For developed countries, there’s absolutely no reason why US should sell their content to them, when they could stream it to viewers directly, and have 100 million viewers per episode worldwide, rather than 10 million in the US only.\ – Right, go tell this to Journeyman TV, for example. They blocked their full-length feature films on YouTube in the U.S. (http://www.youtube.com/show?p=UHH5pb0ZCkc) Even more insulting is that YouTube does not say where these videos are blocked and where they are allowed, it just says \blocked in your country\.

\So until [the advertising] problem is fixed, with ad agencies growing up and seeing the big picture (and learn how to use a video editor), I think we will be prisoners of our own IP addresses.\ – When advertisements become unavoidable by a viewer, I will stop watching. This is one of the reasons I stopped watching regular TV. I do not and I will not watch stuff that contains ads. Yes, I do use AdBlock, NoScript and other tools to remove ads from the pages I browse. No, I do not care about how the website owners are going to monetize, not my problem. In fact, I might consider YouTube’s pay-per-view approach, when they show you a preview, and then you can buy the whole movie. I’d rather pay reasonable amount of money, but I will not watch commercials. Trouble is, cablecos and YouTube currently charge unreasonable prices, $3-6 per video. I am not willing to pay more than a dollar. But considering that all those distribution companies will not have to deliver reels or HDDs to cinema theaters, to maintain the theaters themselves, to pay to personnel, and considering that there can easily be ten or a hundred times more viewers online this should be profitable to them.


This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on February 1st, 2011 at 3:38 PM PST:

First of all, please use different paragraphs and italics for quotes. Your comment was very difficult to read (I added italics to make it readable).

>Have you done a proper poll?

I’ve read a lot of articles about bittorrent “hits”. I can see a pattern. People pirate more close to the broadcast time of the big hits, like LOST. Within one hour of the broadcasting, a new episode would be pirated, and it would climb to No1. Most people that end up pirating would never, never wait months for such a show.

>The alternative is simple: do not watch.

The alternative you offer is not acceptable by the young population. Older, or busy people might not watch, but youngsters, and the kind of people who do pirate, are doing it because they WANT to watch. They would never go to Twitter of Facebook to read their friends discussing the new episode, or go to their favorite blog having reviews of the new episode, and themselves never knowing that episode. It doesn’t work this way anymore. Maybe you’re someone who doesn’t care much about TV shows, but there are people who are immersed in their worlds, and they want instant access to them.

>When advertisements become unavoidable by a viewer, I will stop watching.
>No, I do not care about how the website owners are going to monetize, not my problem.

I don’t mind them at all. I find commercials to be too many these days (17 minutes in an hour or programming, would prefer no more than 12), but other than that, I don’t care about them.

In fact, I prefer commercials than in-show product placement, because I’m trained to block commercials out of my brain during the various intermissions, and phase in and out of the TV show’s world. But when I see a product advertised IN the show, then its universe falls apart for me. There is no other way to monetize a free-to-watch show, sorry.

>I’d rather pay reasonable amount of money, but I will not watch commercials.

Whereas I don’t want to pay for each episode I have to watch. I watched Babylon 5 these last few days for example. 110 episodes. That would be WAY too much money if TV show episodes were costing a dollar each and there was no free way via commercials. Sorry, but feel free to use your iTunes pay per view system, but I prefer live TV, thank you very much (with Netflix as a backup for when a TV show season is released on DVDs/streaming).

As to why not releasing everything at Netflix instead of TV, all episodes/seasons at once, is because TV shows are RELYING on the word of mouth to get a cult status. And this can only happen if you release 1 episode per week, and not wholesale. I’ve done a lot of full-season-watching in just 2-3 days, and it does NOT have the same effect as watching 1 episode per week, going online, checking forums and blogs, discussing etc etc.


Michael C. wrote on February 2nd, 2011 at 11:59 AM PST:

I used regular double quote marks, this is how your blog interprets them.

> In fact, I prefer commercials than in-show product placement, because I’m trained
> to block commercials out of my brain during the various intermissions

If you watch the show for the show itself, not for the products, this should not be a problem. On the other hand, I enjoyed “Meet the Beckers” despite it being a one huge product placement.

> I watched Babylon 5 these last few days for example. 110 episodes.

Maybe you watch too much TV? Either one is a busy businessman or a family person and has no time for TV, or one is a lonely geek with enough time and money for watching TV shows. There are also those lonely homeless people with no money, but they usually don’t have TVs.

> I prefer live TV, thank you very much (with Netflix as a backup for when
> a TV show season is released on DVDs/streaming).

Subscription-based model like Netflix works for me too. It works with Netflix because the fee is relatively low, it has lots of videos to choose from, and all these videos can be searched for, so I know what I am paying for and what to expect. YouTube, on another hand, still sucks in terms of search and overall visibility of videos, despite that it is owned by Google. You never know what you stumble upon. Therefore I would not subscribe to YouTube videos if it offered such a model, but I have subscribed to Netflix.


William Eggington wrote on February 2nd, 2011 at 12:19 PM PST:

There are shows from Australia that I have attempted to view from their broadcasters website and have been denied. I usually do a quick look around the web for a legitimate way of paying for it and when that option is not available to me I find the torrent. I never pirate anything if it is available for purchase somewhere and don’t mind waiting a little while for distribution to kick in, but with international shows, that often will never happen. 🙁


This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on February 2nd, 2011 at 12:52 PM PST:

>Maybe you watch too much TV?

Maybe, but with my falling health, it’s not like I have something better to do. But I’m not “rich”, so I don’t feel like paying for each episode! I still prefer live TV with commercials, if I was not to pay per view.

You should think of it the other way too: if Babylon 5 was not available on Netlfix/DVDs today, or never on live TV, I would have NOT watched it as pay per view. That would be a lose-lose situation for the show’s producers anyway. More acceptable ways of watching their show is an added way for them to make money. The fact that I don’t like pay per view, and you don’t like live TV is irrelevant. Point is, there are enough people to like it one way or another.


glenn wrote on February 3rd, 2011 at 8:41 AM PST:

The fact of the matter is this…it’s a business. I know the internet prides itself on people who feel information and entertainment should be free and they, for the most part, despise the commercial nature of Hollywood but it is first and foremost a business. Without this business there would be ZERO entertainment in the first place.

I hate commercials, I’d rather have product placement…I just wish it was a little less obvious than a glowing light, beaming down on a can of pepsi for 3-5 seconds.

As far as the internet goes with its distribution, I believe it is not as close as people think. For years I have heard that the internet will take over the distribution of Hollywood and original material will reign supreme due to the outlaw qualities of the internet and it still hasn’t happened because the technology isn’t in place yet and the model is not in place yet.

We, as humans, always want more. Think how amazing we’ve come. Ten years ago we would never have even heard about a Greek television show(well maybe you would have Eugenia) but most of us wouldn’t.

Innovation and advancement comes in time…primarily driven by the market’s desire for it. Right now the desire is not quite there and until another generation has passed the current system will reign supreme and until both Hollywood and websites can figure out an appropriate way to monetize their efforts(which they should) get a cable box and a roku box and a netflix account and you will be in the forefront of all available entertainment.


This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on February 3rd, 2011 at 2:52 PM PST:

>As far as the internet goes with its distribution, I believe it is not as close as people think.

For Live TV, it is close. All it needs is better advertising agencies that can deal with worldwide distribution. And if a show is too popular and wastes too much bandwidth, ISPs can cache a feed locally, and then distribute this to its subscribers from their own feed. This becomes cheaper for them, since the subscribers don’t have to hit the backbone each and every time.


Michael C. wrote on February 3rd, 2011 at 3:39 PM PST:

> And if a show is too popular and wastes too much bandwidth,
> ISPs can cache a feed locally

Basically, current scheme with direct access of whatever computer you like over IP networks, based on guranteed delivery of packets, even if this means delays, does not work. A last-mile provider must filter requests and figure out what customers want and whether this should be cached/delivered locally. This all sounds great from technical standpoint, but does not it look like spying on fellow internet users? I mean, requests and IP addresses are routinely logged already, but accessing a YouTube video with id=ABCD is one thing, accessing a video with “world ID”=CDEF is another thing. Will everyone be required to provide a GUID for their videos for unique identification? Or maybe some hash value like in torrent networks. But hash value identify a specific file, if the same show is encoded by another person then its hash value will be different. So, should ALL videos have unique “content ID”, worldwide? This is not just a technical, but also a political issue.


This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on February 3rd, 2011 at 3:50 PM PST:

I was actually talking about multicast.


Michael C. wrote on February 3rd, 2011 at 4:22 PM PST:

I fail to understand how you can multicast a video if subscribers tune in in different time, and all of them want to watch it from the beginning. Maybe I need to read up on that.


This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on February 3rd, 2011 at 4:28 PM PST:

Read my reply to Glenn, it was about Live TV, not Pay-Per-View. It’s live TV I have a beef with not broadcasting worldwide. In that scenario, only the ads change, not the main content. As for Pay Per View, I would expect it to have fewer viewers, as long as the Live TV is already available, so a certain episode is already circulated via multicast, 1 hour or 1 day or 1 year beforehand. So since the Pay Per View version won’t be hit as hard, it can just be streamed normally.


Michael C. wrote on February 3rd, 2011 at 4:45 PM PST:

Live TV, right. It maybe useful for getting the latest weather or watching how the situation in Egypt unfolds. As for non-breaking stuff… Just yesterday I recorded three programs and I haven’t watched them yet. Ah, well. I don’t have buddies with whom I want to share my “experience” and I am not subscribed to Facebook or Twitter. I guess I am officially old.


This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on February 3rd, 2011 at 5:19 PM PST:

I don’t think any of us will get what we want. Streaming, in any way (pay per view or live), doesn’t seem to be what the old foxes want. Today they fired the Hulu CEO for speaking his mind the other day regarding the future of TV.


Comments are closed as this blog post is now archived.

Lines, paragraphs break automatically. HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

The URI to TrackBack this blog entry is this. And here is the RSS 2.0 for comments on this post.