Rory Cellan-Jones

What can music teach telly?

  • Rory Cellan-Jones
  • 28 Aug 09, 13:40 GMT

What can the television industry learn from the music business as it wakes up to the threat from file-sharing?

Top GearThat's the subject of a session I'm chairing on Saturday at the Edinburgh Television Festival. A cynic who learned about this sent me this message:

"Music biz teach TV? Greed, backwards thinking and lack of respect for the end consumer."

Someone else said:

"How to alienate its customers by treating them all as likely criminals."

But that's unfair to the people who are appearing on my panel.

Will Page, the economist at the Performing Right Society, is a big thinker about what the music industry has got right and wrong over recent years - and where it's heading.

Peter Jenner, legendary manager of Pink Floyd and former economics lecturer, is not a man to toe the music industry party line.

And Eric Garland of Big Champagne, the media measurement business, has some fascinating data about the patterns he's spotted in unauthorised online access to both music and video.

Chatting to all three in advance, I think they have a few simple lessons that both industries can learn about dealing with a digital world.

Popular is popular

Lady GagaIf you've got a popular product - whether it's Lady Gaga, Top Gear, or Heroes - it's going to be popular on all sorts of platforms. And that includes unauthorised places where fans go to share what they like.

Does that mean you end up earning less from legitimate outlets?

Maybe, though it's hard to get figures. But all that pirated material floating around and being talked about could also be seen as free marketing, sending paying customers your way.

They want it now!

Once your product becomes better known, consumers will want to get it straight away - so you had better make sure that they can get it legitimately before the bootleg version is available.

Look at U2's much-anticipated No Line On The Horizon, leaked online before its launch. Hundreds of thousands of fans got a free copy. Some saw that as clever viral marketing - but it looks as though it damaged sales.

And look at Eric Garland's data on Top Gear. It's a popular show in the United States, but there's a big gap between its broadcast in the UK and its arrival on BBC America. In the interim, impatient fans rush to torrent sites to find it.

TorchwoodThe BBC appears to be learning that lesson - the recent Torchwood series was broadcast in the US shortly after the UK saw it and fans of the cult series were able to get their fix.

Live works

The music business has switched its focus to live gigs, finding that fans who wouldn't pay £15 for a CD are happy to pay £50 or more to see their favourite band live - and to shell out more on merchandise.

And while Hollywood and the TV industry are looking in despair at the huge numbers downloading the likes of Heroes or Watchmen for free, the extent of piracy of live shows is relatively small.

Millions watched May's Champions League final between Barcelona and Manchester United live, earning TV stations big advertising revenues - but hardly anyone bothered to go online to grab it the day after.

Try everything

Radiohead's "pay what you want" offer for their In Rainbows album is often cited as an example of advanced digital thinking - and the fact that most fans chose to pay very little is flung back by the cynics.

But Radiohead also managed to sell lots of CDs and got a lot of fans to hand over £40 for a deluxe edition of the album. Smart band.

Record labels, and television executives will realise that there are still plenty of ways of extracting cash from people who really want your product. Mind you, if it's rubbish, you will get found out very quickly.

Don't worry, be happy

There's something akin to panic in the boardrooms of TV firms and Hollywood studios.

They're convinced that the wave of internet piracy which has swamped the music business is now going to capsize them too.

But Eric Garland has a message for all those anxious executives: calm down, dears.

TV in particular has a range of business models - unlike music which was wholly dependent on selling circles of pressed plastic in high street stores.

Live television is still watched by millions for many hours each day - and that will continue to make it attractive for advertisers.

So instead of pulling their hair out, smart folks in TV will take a look at the music industry's experience and adapt rapidly to a changing world.


  • Comment number 1.

    As i've mentioned previously...

    It is a small and uncontrollable world, with the internet enabling instant access to everyone.

    Charge a fair price, and make it available simultaneously on all media, and it will work.

    Most importantly, make it a good product, and people will pay.

  • Comment number 2.

    With any luck it will teach them to price their products fairly, and to stop with regional launchs and products.

    If people want a product their going to get it, the industry needs to realize this and make it easier legally to get something rather than waiting for months at a time for dvds to come out in different countries when it can be just be watched online.

    Most people anyway watch it online and then buy the dvd anyway. Something that none of the industry heads seem to acknowledge publicly.

  • Comment number 3.

    It is all about making content available on the internet for people to get when they want it.

    I have never downloaded illegally, however I can hugely understand the frustration of people who are will to purchase something and cannot get it by any means other than illegally.

    For myself, I wanted to purchase and download an old PC game and couldn't find anywhere to get it other than illegal sites. I also wanted to rip some DVDs that I had on to my netbook so I could watch them while travelling, but again there is no legal way to do this and the only way of getting the content on-line is by illegal download.

    What the TV and Film industries need are a couple of stores on the interent with full back catalogues that can allow people to legally download content, where-ever you are in the world, at a reasonable price and illegal downloading will substantially reduce.

  • Comment number 4.

    The situation is rather different for TV and music.

    TV programmes (BBC excepted) make most of their income from advertising. Now, if your programme is being pirated and sent all over the world, that means the adverts are being seen by more people, so you have a good case for charging the advertisers extra. It's hard to see why TV companies would be too upset about their content being copied by file sharing.

  • Comment number 5.

    DoM2 (4) I'd also add that the TV programmes aren't directly purchased by the end consumer (at least not until the DVD comes out afterwards) so to equate the two industries is not really valid.

  • Comment number 6.

    Useful and interesting piece as always. Certainly, there are plenty of mistakes that the music business has made, and a business model that treats the customer as the enemy is certainly one of them, as is quite evident greed over a period of decades. I very much agree with "evergrowingbrain" on this topic and would make the following enlargement on that theme…

    The industry has not yet worked out all the answers, and as long as it deludes itself that it's "losing £xxx million a year due to illegal filesharing" (it isn't: you can't tell what people would buy if they couldn't get it free) and fails to include individual artist and smaller online record company sales and really knows how much music is being *sold* and not stolen (sales may be much higher than they believe, they just don't go to the majors), it never will.

    Today, the cost of manufacturing/distribution is very small indeed, which was not the case until quite recently (though everyone knew that CDs cost under 50p to make and that a £15 selling price was a ripoff, so of course people copied CDs where a less greedy price would have encouraged them to own a legit copy). It still costs money to make a decent recording (and home recording systems are still not enough on their own) so the answers probably lie in offering added value.

    For music, live performance may be part of the answer, with recordings being used to promote live and value-added events. Merchandising is another part of the equation.

    It's not obvious how you could apply the former to TV, but certainly there are some lessons that can be transferred:
    • Make programming available internationally at the same time via all outlets. Nothing annoys people more than delays in a show being available in a territory. They will get it and you will lose.
    • To every measure there is a countermeasure. Don't spend time and effort trying to STOP people doing something they want to do: it will ALWAYS fail. Work out instead how you can make money out of what people want to, and will, do. Think how to make something possible, not difficult (there is no such thing as "impossible").
    • Set pricing levels fairly and avoid people thinking you're ripping them off (people will know if you are). Offer added value and make it worth peoples' while paying for the real thing instead of hunting it down for nothing. Low cost, high volume, high quality and added value that people don't get with the illegal download
    • Make it easy for people to get what they want: look at iTunes, Amazon's one-click, super-easy micropayments using an agreed system used by all major players so customers only have to register once.
    • Use common formats and distribution systems, ideally open-source. Work together to make content available through common channels that work on all three major platforms and allow people to do what they think they should be able to do (the "CD model" if you will). Think "How do we make this easier to buy/obtain/enjoy" and not "Make it proprietary and hold on like grim death to everything."
    • Ensure that the real thing offers exceptional quality. Sell quality, think quality, offer quality, and offer it first. Quality is the thing that is degraded by illegal transfers (even in the digital age: think lossy compression). Quality takes up bandwidth, so high quality is more difficult to steal as it takes more time. Terrestrial, cable and satellite TV offer HD in realtime, with bandwidths that most people will not have available via broadband for some time (Digital Britain? You must be joking). Make technical quality integral to the product and you buy time to think of new solutions.

    I hope this helps as a start…

  • Comment number 7.

    Don't treat file sharing as a threat view it as an opportunity, should be a key learning. By treating it as a threat the music industry has successfully alienated itself from core customers.

    Realize that the world has moved on and we are now all digitally connected. The BBC has actually not done a bad job on this and their model should be copied (Torchwood is a good example and it would be interesting to understand if viewing figures were better/worse as a result of the change in scheduling).

    If we take the BBC as an example, could you not make the most of the iPlayer and BBC content (which by and large is high quality) by allowing programs to be viewed abroad (think eastenders, spooks) so that expats/fans can view them. This could either be done by inserting a small ad into the program (as the website does if you logon from abroad) or by partnering with local TV companies and allowing them to use the iPlayer...Just a thought, I personally live abroad and end up BTing my fav BBC programs (spooks, hotel babylon etc) simply because there is no other avenue to watch them. I would not do it if I could use the iPlayer.

    By doing this loyal fan becomes loyal customer....

  • Comment number 8.

    The only problem with this argument of course is that A. People up create the original file for download would edit the adverts out and B. even if they didn't the user would just skip past them.

    Of course I know lots of people who won't watch live TV becasue of the adverts. They record it on PVRs and then skip past them! :-)

  • Comment number 9.

    They want it now!


    Indeed, your recent non-newsworthy article stating that Heroes was the most illegally downloaded TV program in the UK falls under this category. I, as did many other people I know, downloaded the episodes the day after they screened in the US rather than wait 3 weeks for them to be aired on the BBC. Were we really stealing illegal content? I would say no, we pay our TV Licence annually, not in daily installments so my money had already been used to pay for the episode I was now downloading.

    I also find myself downloading many other shows that air on channels I have a right to watch via TV licencing, purely because I do not own a Working TV, nor a Sky+/Tivo, nor a VHS recorder, so if I miss a show and it is not on iPlayer I download it. I do this with certain drama series as well because I actually like occasionally spending a few evenings watching an entire series instead of being dictated to be screening times of old-fashioned live-streaming TV channels.

    TV on demand is the be all and end all answer. Keep your streaming channels if you want for those who do not wish to change, but why can't the TV companies simply adopt a model whereby when a show is released it is done so simultaneously by all channels who hold the rights and made available as a whole series on demand all at once?

    This is what happens with the music industry. Albums are released in many territories at once, via numerous download methods (itunes etc.) and are presented in full, not is some silly episodic form that sees you gain access to a new track every week and for only 1 week at a time. And finally after many years of doing it really badly, the music industry is now reaping the rewards with revenue from downloads outpointing those from physical sales for singles and heading that way for albums too.

  • Comment number 10.

    As most other people have already said - make it available for legal download globally at the same time, and people will buy it legally. A lot of illegal downloading is from people who want to see something but some executive somewhere has decided that people in one country get to see it now, but people in another don't for months yet.

    I downloaded Scrubs season 8 on torrents from the US. Why ? Because no UK network has yet chosen to pick it up and show it, and I was left with no other option but download it illegally. Does that make me a criminal ? Probably, yes. But if the program was available for me to pay for & download legally, I would certainly have done so.

    Unfortunately the TV companies seem to be repeating the mistakes of the music industry by seeing this as a threat rather than the massive opportunity it actually is.

  • Comment number 11.

    I live in a country where it is acceptable to download via torrents (I hope this statement will mean I don't get canned for encouraging downloading of illegal material by the far to strict moderators)

    I have my computer setup with a remote control a cable going from my computer to the tv some free htpc software. I set my torrent software to download the programs I like automatically by RSS and hey presto when I come to watch TV what I want to see is there.

    I am not a programmer or even an enthusiast, I just like TV and movies. If I could pay for this service I would, but I just can't, surely this is going to start catching on and people are going to be used to it in a few years and then TV productions will have no way of finding finance...I hope they can pick something up from the ignorance of the music industry, and start binning these ridiculous complicated cross border agreements.

  • Comment number 12.

    "What can the television industry learn from the music business as it wakes up to the threat from file-sharing?"

    If you appear to be charging extortionate amounts for legal copies/viewing rights people will just fine other ways to obtain the content, if one releases content in one area of the world and not the others people will find ways of either 'cracking' the region code of legitimate discs or find other ways to obtain the content...

    Sorry but as much as I support the right of the media industry to sell their content I also support the rights of consumers not to be 'ripped off' (and that doesn't just mean in the financial sense)...

  • Comment number 13.

    TV and film should, (and can), be released on both sides of the world at the same time. Take a film like Disney's Up, released in the US 29th May, it won't be in UK cinemas until 9th October. Why?

    The BBC/HBO co-produced drama, "Into The Storm" played in the US in May... yet still no sign of it in the UK. Why? If you deny consumers the content they want, they find a way to obtain it bypassing you.

  • Comment number 14.

    The stupid thing about all this is that channels end up showing interesting programmes in a series, and because of distrib rights, only be allowed to show it at one time or maybe twice a week, then its no more until months or years have passed (My thanks go to the enormous US media conglomerates for the deals they strike with us in the UK).
    Take one particular programme I was entitled to watch, 'Fringe' on Sky One. I missed the entirity of the first season. Then got really interested when I caught the second season - albeit somewhat confusing.
    Until Sky One and every other channel get their act together with some kind of longer lasting distro rights and some kind of 'legal' internet catch up service, then people wont have to resort to what some might call 'piracy' which is really just a contorted mess of bureaucracy and faux law.
    I personally find the whole concept of 'stealing' TV programmes, esp those shown on channels I subscribe to watch, utterly laughable. You didn't get (quite?) this level of madness when the first VCRs came out!

  • Comment number 15.

    One thing I've noticed is since iPlayer the amount of commercial TV I watch has dropped down close to zero. I used to watch a fair amount of Channel 4 (not so much ITV) but to be honest the convenience of iPlayer wins out over surfing an old fashioned scheduled network.

    Of course Channel 4 do have 4oD however is doesn't work on my PS3. The BBC to it's credit has to try hard to reach the maximum number of viewers through the universal service provisions. I'm guessing PS3 owners are just not a big enough demographic for Channel 4 to bother fixing their site.

  • Comment number 16.

    Wow, what a stunning amount of unanimity in these comments. I hope the observations get noticed.

  • Comment number 17.


    Fair point. I acknowledge that most people who download shows via file sharing probably wouldn't watch the adverts. But as you say, plenty of people don't watch adverts anyway (I built myself a Linux-based PC for watching TV recently, and by far the best thing about it is that I never have to watch adverts any more).

    Still, editing adverts out is a hassle, and no doubt a fair proportion of the illegally file-shared shows would keep the adverts in. Most people would skip them, but some would not.

    Even if just a few people watch adverts on illegally downloaded versions, it's still some extra benefit for the advertisers.

  • Comment number 18.


    "Certainly, there are plenty of mistakes that the music business has made, and a business model that treats the customer as the enemy is certainly one of them"

    Spot on!

    I would generally consider myself law abiding. I have never downloaded any movies or TV shows via any channels of questionable legality, and 99% of my music collection was paid for legitimately. The other 1% was downloaded mostly after reading some story about some stupid DRM stuff the entertainment industry was doing that just made me angry, so I thought if they're going to treat me like a criminal, perhaps I should act like one.

    And don't get me started on Blu-Ray...
    (see my post #5 in the previous article on this blog)

  • Comment number 19.

    Through the net people are making friendships all over the world, with people they talk to on a very regular basis. They want to share TV programs they enjoy. The TV iPlayers are the perfect vehicle for this, if only the licensing could be remodelled.

  • Comment number 20.

    "And look at Eric Garland's data on Top Gear." There are no statistics about Top Gear on that link. Check it.

  • Comment number 21.

    I live in the US, but have a TV license in the UK. Unfortunately, since there is no provision for expats to make use of iPlayer, 4OD and so forth, I have to download the British TV show 'illegally'. No doubt I am counted as an illegal sharer, when in reality I cannot do the right thing because of the technological barriers put in my way. I am happy to pay a subscription for use of these services abroad, or to watch them with ads, but these options are not available. Until they are, I will continue downloading TV shows via 'alternative' means - what choice do I have?

  • Comment number 22.

    R.e. DisgustedOfMitcham2

    The TV shows that are available for 'illegal' download never keep the adverts in - it's not much of a hassle to remove them for the people sharing that content.

    Further to my previous comment, I would be happy to have that as a compromise - I can download shows whenever I like on P2P providing they keep the commercials. That would be fine by me. As I said, the only reason I use P2P is because I have no other means of watching the shows in the first place.

  • Comment number 23.


    Never? Or just rarely?

    Personally, I've found it a bit of a hassle to edit out adverts, but I admit that I don't download TV programmes so perhaps the premise of my previous argument was wrong if I've misunderstood what was on offer.

    My point is that even if just a few adverts get watched through illegal file sharing, then the advertisers have gained and no-one has really lost anything.

  • Comment number 24.


    In my experience, never. That said, it's also worth noting that interesting ads also end up being shared individually - just goes to show that if advertisers try hard, people *are* prepared to watch them as another form of entertainment in their own right.

  • Comment number 25.

    I personally think TV production companies need new models for how they distribute their shows. They should sell their shows to a wide range of international broadcasters all at once, and agree on a week (or maybe fortnight period) when the shows will broadcast. This would allow TV networks to gain bigger audiences, and also save production companies from having to rely purely on domestic TV ratings to decide if they renew their show.
    It would also mean iTunes, etc. could make these shows available to download to international audiences immediately. Again, increasing income for production companies.

    The internet is an international marketplace. People read about their favourite shows online, and like to be able to discuss the latest episode with people round the world. TV shows need to recognise this, and get their products out to international markets as soon as they can, allowing people to at least have the choice to download/watch them legally.

  • Comment number 26.

    Can't agree that the BBC learnt the lesson with the Torchwood serial. My recorder missed episode 4 and it was not available from iPlayer for weeks because of an upcoming repeat. So I obtained it from a download elsewhere.

  • Comment number 27.

    If networks make their shows available quickly, easily, at high quality, and with adverts in, people will watch and watch the adverts too.

    I believe in America, every episode ever of 'The Colbert Report' is available online through the official website. But because no broadcaster in this country will show it, I have to 'illegally' download it. Without adverts.

  • Comment number 28.

    I don't see an issue with downloading a TV show, particularly if it's already been aired in my own country (UK). OK, so the advertisers might have missed out on spamming me, but its not like I don't see enough tampon/soda drink/car/clothes/money comparison website adverts as it is on the box. This particularly applies if its on the BBC, which carries no advertising at all - I've paid for a valid TV licence, why shouldn't I download it if it's not on iplayer?

  • Comment number 29.

    The regionally controlled TV industry model is dead. That industry needs to wake up. At lot of British people live outside the UK. Broadcasters are always reducing the footprint of the Sky TV dominated Astra satellite system so that British TV is not available in fringe areas in Europe. I look it as though broadcasters are restricting access to my language and culture for no good reason other than greed. Many expatriates are quite prepared to pay something (not a premium, just say, license fee equivalent) for access to ALL domestic UK TV on an uncontrolled basis (not a stupid BBC Prime type thing) via the Internet or via satellite. Until that's available, people will just keep downloading. If legitimate TV was available to people, then it'd go some way to stop downloads. It could well be that by the time the broadcasters wake up, they'll already be bankrupt and out of business.

  • Comment number 30.

    If the TV networks provided the means for me to automatically download HD-quality episodes as soon as they became available, using a single piece of software for all networks worldwide that works on multiple platforms, with or without adverts, then I would willingly pay money for it. Otherwise, I would have to revert to supposedly illegal (but not in my view immoral) means of acquiring content via RSS/torrents (say).

    So instead of criminalising people who just want convenience and immediacy, please could we have a business model that would keep us happy and make money?

  • Comment number 31.

    cable is the way forward we have virgin and we can access the i player through the red button no going on the computer also when it comes to films its about having some respect for the consumer there is so much hype over what are somtimes very poor films but you dont realise this till you have handed over fifteen quid in tickets and popcorn if your not a regular goer it can seem to be a wasted trip maybe simutaneous release will work this would of course mean international market testing by mainly american studios but pounds euros or dollars it is all profit.

  • Comment number 32.

    I live in Australia. The TV stations over here started showing some of the US shows I enjoy (or don't even show them) but after one or two seasons they started messing about with the scheduling (moving to incredibly late times) then canceling those series'. What am I supposed to do then? Only one things left to do, turn to the Robin Hoods of the internet.

    Sites like EZTV are now very popular simply because they cater to the publics demands/requirements whereas the TV industry is either to slow, unwilling or inept at adapting to these changes.

  • Comment number 33.

    I pay my TV tax and Sky TV Tax.

    The poxy 80GB (if I recall correctly) of space available on Sky+ is only capable of storing so much (if and when it decides to record what I asked it to in the first place). I FF through the adverts on anything we record. So what's the difference if I choose to download TV shows to my 4TB disk array on my computers instead?

    I can watch precisely WHAT I WANT, WHEN I WANT and I don't have to worry about my 4 year old son scratching a DVD and rendering it useless. I also feel I am doing my bit towards the environment, no packaging whatsoever as would be the opposite with a DVD or box-set.

    Perhaps it's the endless onslaught of adverts that are making me watch less and less "real-time" TV; perhaps it's the quality of programming (too much low-budget reality tv and too many over paid BBC directors!) - oh and don't blame "piracy" for this, EIGHTEEN MILLION QUID for WOSSY?! Is *ANYONE* really worth that kind of money? Doubtful.

    Oh and to comment #4, if you download a TV series, it's generally stripped of the adverts so to say that torrenting gets the messages to more people is wrong.

    So, that brings me onto, like music, the question of what can be downloaded legally vs what can't. I guess that the recent Mandleson fiasco of cutting of file-sharers is relevant here too but are the ISP to keep a list of all TV programmes old and new, what can and can't be downloaded and in what country/region too? Who maintains this list? Who is accountable should an error occur in the creation of the list (ie something's marked as not allowed when it it)?

    The "powers that be" must hate the internet for it gives us, the normal people, some of our freedom of choice back.

    As far as I know, a program is made (at the expense of the makers) they sell it to a station and the station gets their money back from advertising; correct? The advertisers make their money back from people buying the products as seen on tv right - surely this is seriously flawed and they are again assuming (remember, "ASSUME makes an A55 out of U and ME") that each time their advert is shown, someone will go out and buy that product.

    "ooh no, so many people didn't watch the advert and I can guarantee, 100% of them would have, had they seen the advert"

    WRONG. If companies are loosing money then perhaps they are simply putting too much faith in the hands of the media company to show their adverts and are too reliant on people going out and buying everything they see on TV simply because they have no free will or are too stupid to stop and think that "it's an advert, of course they're not going to tell you anything bad about the product and of course, it's the best thing in the world and you MUST have it/one/five".

    Argh, I am rambling now and will be quiet and retire to my dark, happy place - where I can download as much media as I please and nobody bothers me ...

  • Comment number 34.

    Agree with #9. TV on Demand (over digital TV and internet) has to be the way forward.

    If I want to watch Top Gear Season 3 Episode 4, my only option is to BT it, because I can't get DaveTV on freesat. I can't buy it cos it's not for sale.

    New media, like streaming internet, needs a new business model, not a new and prohibitive law.

    Creative industries should treat fans like fans, not like criminals.

  • Comment number 35.

    The problem with some shows is if you cannot watch them on tv, some of the US shows take foreever to come out on DVD - NCIS, for example. With the UK shows the time they take to get to DVD varies so much - some are out soon after the programme has aired, others take years.

  • Comment number 36.

    Part of the problem lies in the lawyers who get involved. Often the delays, as mentionned are caused by legal tie ups and cause the delay in the release date of the media of the product involved.

    There's also the issue of poor distribution models which causes frustration with consumers who want to get their hands on media that hasn't become mainstream and found a large scale distributor to put their product out into the market. Why should I have to special order a CD of a musician and pay tarrifs and import fees and wait for the order to arrive if I can just grab it online for free? Why would anyone want to wait several months for a small, foreign film that might not even get shown in my town, city or country, much less get carried by larger video shops or video on demand companies?

    Smaller, lesser known bands, movies and television shows get hurt the most from piracy because people are aware of the said media, but do not want to have to wait months, sometimes longer for it to be legally released.

    Companies now have to face and compete with a underground market that is able to serve the consumer market in a far quicker (and far less legal) manner than they're prepared or equipped to deal with - and, in some cases, that they had a hand in creating. The pendulumm has swung far into the favour of the consumer, and the corporations are struggling to catch up. Their antiquated business model needs rethinking, and the legal aspect needs to be rethought as well.

  • Comment number 37.

    i dont watch adverts, i always ff or change channels when they come on, am i breaking the law by doing this, will the entertainment industry find a way to criminalise me for not doing what they want me to do, i bet they'll try anything to make me pay more to watch what they want me to watch, when they want me to watch it. blank audio cassettes,blank dvd's empty hhd's waiting to copy things, all were/are supposed to be the end of the industry, there will always be something else for them to whinge on about sooner or later.

  • Comment number 38.

    The whole industry needs to wake up and smell the coffee. The music industry is still lagging far behind where it should be.

    Currently the only thing "telly" can learn from music is how to turn it's consumers into criminals because it's consumers want to dictate how and when they access the media.

  • Comment number 39.

    Looking at the previous posts, the general consensus is that people are quite happy to pay for 'illegal' downloads, at a fair price and on a worldwide timetable, I Myself feel like many others, if i already pay for my TV licence then what is the problem with me downloading it at a later date and watching it at my own leisure, Its exactly the same as recording it on VHS or DVD or to PVR and watching it, and if i get it a few weeks early (such as heroes) or 6 months early (such as scrubs on E4) whats the difference? And if its something i enjoy i'll buy the DVD anyway, 24 starts in january but isn't available on DVD until October, wheres the justice in that?
    and as someone else has mentioned, some things aren't even available on DVD like Top Gear, In the days when people work all the hours under the sun, we sometimes just aren't around to catch a programme at the scheduled time.

    Not to mention a lot of programmes dont appear on UK TV for stupid amounts of time, or are scheduled at Stupid oclock on a random channel, How i met your mother has been going in america for 4 Years with the 5th Season starting next month, but E4 have just picked it up next week. Where is the sense in that?

  • Comment number 40.


    The 'Warez scene' has taken massive steps to improve the quality and speed at which television programmes are released onto the internet. There are numerous groups in the US and Canada who have powerful computers encoding the programme as it airs. Tight regulations have been enforced, controlling the way audio and video is encoded, the size of the file and how the file is named. Even the rules are nicely set out (they are linked to from the 'Standard (warez)' article from Wikipedia).

    The first group to release the file wins. If a release group fails to comply with the regulations, the file is 'nuked' and another group may release their version.

    The file is without adverts, in 720p with 5.1 AAC (in some cases) and can be available on the internet within an hour of the broadcast. This is often online faster than the BBC's iPlayer and the HD version of the file is at a higher bit rate (~4000kbps) than the Beeb's (3200kbps).

    The quality is inferior - the only way this can be stopped is if the show is aired in the UK the following evening after the broadcast in the US. This makes it (nearly) unfeasible for obtaining the file online and would dramatically cut the number of people downloading. Sky could also be to blame. They have picked up Lost and 24 from Channel 4 and the BBC respectively. The first season or two were available on terrestrial channels before Sky bought the rights. This left many people in the UK who don't have a Sky subscription without 24 and Lost - although some my subscribe, many will resort to the internet instead.

    The broadcasters will end up having to compete against the scene in order to reduce these figures, something which I feel will be a costly and economically nonviable solution.

  • Comment number 41.

    Season 1 of HIMYM was shown by the BBC in 2006.

  • Comment number 42.

    A lot of the issue here is the timing difference in availability rather than, necessarily, loss of revenue. Say, for example, people do download popular US dramas to see them sooner. In the end, the shows are shown in the UK so the rights holder gets their income. I cannot see where any substantial loss occurs. There's no loss from reduced sales of DVD sets (unless we all want to go over the hoary subject of recording TV onto VHS, etc.) and the tiny numbers of downloaders are hardly going to affect either subscriber or advertising revenues.

    As with the music industry experience, the strength of interest shown by illegal downloaders maps to strong interest in the product and generally strong expenditure on legal media (when available).

  • Comment number 43.

    There's a perfect answer.. Spotify for TV! Spotify has already had an impact on reducing unauthorised music downloads, It'd surely have the same effect on TV downloads.

    Imagine: one service where you could watch any programme from any network. No having to subscribe to a whole package just because the one show you want is on it. Or even have to wait several months for it to come to your country. This is what people want. To pick and choose.

    Content producers have found that they cannot manage the viewing methods any more, so now they have little choice but to provide content in a fair manner or risk losing profits.

  • Comment number 44.

    While I agree with everything that's been said so far about the poor management, mismatching release times, and the need for the industry to take heed, I think its important to remind them to make sure they do things right.

    While I would happily watch TV Shows on iPlayer (the HD streaming is some of the best streaming quality you get), anybody who's used ITV Player's streaming knows its worse than a joke. I can tell you I don't feel a glimmer of remorse from logging on to some sites with "questionable legality" and getting a working video stream or download. Ofcourse, that then counts as another "illegal" download, "stealing" revenue from ITV, when in fact I was/am entitled to watching that programme for free on the ITV website.

    Also, can anybody really say there's a difference between recording a show on VHS/DVD and then watching it later when you have time, or downloading the exact same show and watching it when you have time. Everybody forgets to programme their recorder every so often and misses an episode, or forget to put a blank tape/dvd in. Are we then really expected to wait 6 months for the belated DVD release before we're legally allowed to see that missing episode (which we've already paid to see?!).

    And something the Movie industry can learn from the music industry, however much they moan about "internet piracy", sales from live gigs and concerts haven't disappeared, most gigs and shows are still completely sold out weeks and months in advance. Going down to the cinema to catch a movie is much more than watching the film at home- it's a completely different atmosphere; you can go down with your mates, eat overpriced popcorn, have a laugh out for a bit. Or it can be a date, or a Birthday event. People being able to download movies at home can't change that atmosphere.

    What the movie industry really needs to is simply listen. Don't make the same mistakes the music industry are still making.

  • Comment number 45.

    I think somethings have been overlooked or portrayed inaccurately from reading some of the comments above. I don't agree because you payed for a licence you are free to download and watch what you want.

    A lot of TV shows are broadcasted on commercial channels which need the viewing numbers and advertising revenue which is gained from slotting in those adverts during air. Thats how they make their money and continue to develop more shows and entertainment. Here in Australia we do not have a TV licence, it is down to TV stations to find and generate their revenue, with the exception of ABC which, is partly funded from government grants.

    Take in to account a lot of TV stations around the world pay for and rely on foreign (US) shows. If everyone watched shows online these stations wouldn't be able to stay on air. Unfortunately it just isn't so simple as putting everything online at the moment.

    Obvious reasons for downloading shows online:

    - because of the scheduling mess that often happens here
    - the show is canceled
    - the TV show is not shown at all
    - it is shown but missed watching/recording it

    We do have satellite (FoxTel) and I really got in to the last season of Battlestar Galactica on the Sci Fi channel. Fortunately Sci Fi (who funded and produced the show) got it perfectly right with its airing. They would show the latest episode in the US and the following day/morning it would be aired multiple times in Australia or other parts of the world where Sci Fi channel was available. Had it been shown some weeks or months later I have no doubt the take up of online take-up would have been greater.

    Unfortunately not every TV station has itself accessible in multiple countries and not everyone has access to satellite TV.

    When some of the biggest and popular TV shows are funded and produced by TV stations which, are in turn owned by some of the big movie/media companies currently stuck in a previous generation of distribution and licencing modules I do not foresee much of a change in illegal online distribution and downloading.

    Online TV is still, in reality, a really long way away so we still need our TV channels. Yet we need a balance between airing/scheduling times across the world and continued online access to that content, DRM free and not region accessible in any form. Until these conditions are met no matter how the industry tackles it online "illegal" distribution and downloading is here to stay.

  • Comment number 46.

    It may sound silly, but they broadcast TV shows out into the solar system for free. Were I to have the resources I could have a satellite however far away it needed to be and transmit the signal back, and I could watch anything .. for free .. (with delay).
    The shows themselves, for the networks are only a source of income by jamming advertising in it - at least in Australia. *They* *give* *them* *away* *free* to anyone in the galaxy - just think, the first series of Heroes is currently airing on Alpha Centauri since it's 4 light years away. People on GJ 682 (16 Ly away) will be able to see Michael Jackson perform at the Super Bowl XXVII (1993).

    Are the courts going to sue them too ? What if a friend in the US records Heroes then posts it to me on a DVD ?

    Regardless, if the companies don't make their product available to those who want it, they will get it however they can. The biggest problem that exists here is to avoid the foolish methods the music industry have followed. They've shot themselves in the foot already, and most people hate the RIAA/AFACT and their ilk by the heavy handed way they deal with things.

    The comment made earlier about advertisers getting more airplay is patently wrong on two counts :
    1- What good is me seeing an advertisement for Harrods when I am on the other side of the planet ?
    2- From what I have seen, most taped shows have the ads stripped by TiVo or similar. Perhaps we should ban the ad removal .. ?

    I am all for obtaining content legally but 90% of the time it's impossible. Networks over here (and likely in other places) put shows on at varying times from week to week, then ditch them suddenly. If I was 1/2 way through the first season of a show I was enjoying, and the network stopped airing it, I'd have no real option but to download it or move overseas. Obviously downloading is less hassle.

  • Comment number 47.

    I am quite happy to get my TV whichever way I feel is convenient at the time. Typically it will be live TV, Sky+, iPlayer, torrents, and DVDs (brought).

    For me there is no difference in downloading the programme by bittorrent than recording it on Sky+ as I skip past the ads on Sky+ anyway, my favourite shows will then get brought on DVD, or BluRay. In fact some I discovered by downloading them and then brought the DVD. So the BBC et al. actually make money by me downloading material.

    My wife is from overseas and the only realistic way for her to get TV in her native language is to download it.

    The TV companies should see the torrent sites as another distribution method, one Scandinavian channel is already trialling this where they have their own tracker which they control and upload material to, no messy DRM, no forcing people to use app x.

    The challenge for the TV companies is how to make more money from this channel.

  • Comment number 48.


    What can the television industry learn from the music business as it wakes up to the threat from file-sharing?

    Many things in that you have to have level of security in the embedding
    process when you are producing television items....

    =Dennis Junior=

  • Comment number 49.

    I agree with many people here that sometimes there isn't a better way to get the show other than going on the internet. There is also the reason about people coming from different regions of the world where se show itself is an advertisement while the associated merchandise is the money maker. Thus the concept of charging $24.99 for a DVD containing only 2 episodes of a long TV series is just not how they live.

    I am willing to pay a fair cost to download the show I like (provided that you don't give me the grief about only one computer can play, etc.) I am also willing to pay $2 per channel of cable/satellite TV (and also pay for the hardware at a resonable cost without the grief about only one TV would work for the play back or recording, etc.) But I am not willing to pay $60+ per month for 120 channels and most I don't need. I'll pay for what I and need, just don't stuff me with rubbish I don't want!

  • Comment number 50.

    1. At 2:03pm on 28 Aug 2009, evergrowingbrain wrote:

    Charge a fair price, and make it available simultaneously on all media, and it will work. Most importantly, make it a good product, and people will pay.


    I would LOVE to see your evidence for that.

    However, the reality of the world of marketing is that however cheap a product may be, if there is a way to get it free and safely, VAST numbers of people will choose that route instead. Especially if it is as easy as the paid for route.

    And in fact, the more of it that is high quality, the more people will simply steal. Its knowledge of this simple fact that has driven many a successful "buy one get one free" campaign and lost leader promotions over many, many years.

    In the case of music, most people cannot hear the difference between the WAV 24 bit 96khz original and the squashed MP3. I know, I have tried with several people.

    So, they are more than happy to download a compressed free version. Sounds fine to them.

    Add to that, once someone realises they can get away with downloading for nothing, they don't just download the one track they started looking for, they download a couple of hundred Albums. Then a pile of software, then a load more movies and so on.

    I remember a story about one downloadable computer game (It may have been Luxor, but I am not sure now.) Pretty good arcade game, cheap, and easy to get. The pirate version of it out down-loaded the official version by about 200 to one.

    The whole problem has NOTHING to do with price points, or availability or anything else. It is simply a cultural thing based on one or other of the two premises:

    1. I can get away with it, no worries
    2. It isn't really stealing cos I got a right to listen to anything I want! So There!

    The trouble is, that in as much as daft libertarian geeks don't get that base psychology of the human race and think "free" is somehow noble, the music industry and media industry (and the writer of this blog) don't get it either.

    People don't nick music because it is too expensive, they do it because they can get away with it, and they don't care whether it is legal or not.

    Music, films, software - all of these are luxuries. They are not necessary for living, for survival or anything else at all. The person who steals a loaf of bread because they are penniless and starving, may have a vital need that they cannot fulfil in any other way. The person that steals an album because they just "want" it, is just a thief - there is NOT justification in anyway whatsoever.

  • Comment number 51.

    I have no evidence - just my opinion. "People" could be 2 or a million - I don't know...

    Anyone who has itunes, also has the ability to ilegally download. Many of them choose not to, as they do have a sense of morals, and know it is the right thing to do to pay.

    The availablitiy issue is different to the problem of the copyright theft issue. I downloaded Phsychoville as it was in better quality than iplayer and I could watch it on my TV. As a licence fee payer I don't consider there to be a moral problem with that.

    I didn't rip off the Arctic Monkeys album (I could have) because I know it is wrong to do that and I see it as a value product, worth paying for.

  • Comment number 52.

    The biggest problem facing all media industries with regards to piracy is that it's showing consumers what can be done. Here in the UK we've had to put up with delayed releases, sometimes no releases as well as vastly inferior products. A couple of examples.

    I'm a big fan of a certain TV series. It's about to start it's sixth season in the US. Only the first three have aired over here, and all three are available to buy on DVD and iTunes. I've spent £60+ to buy all three seasons that are available to me, yet I can't legally watch the other two, even though they aired, in some cases, upwards of two years ago in the US. I could go on to a website right now and download the two series in high definition illegally, yet I can't buy them. There are no plans to show seasons 4 & 5 in the UK, let alone season 6.

    The Blu-Ray special edition of Watchmen. Compare the UK version with the US version and then ask yourself the question why people might want to pirate the US version even though the UK version is available to buy here.

    The Disney Pixar film UP! was released many months ago yet has not made it in to cinemas here. Again, if I wanted to I could have a copy downloaded in an hour or so.

    The most annoying aspect of this whole debate is that media companies are more than happy to encourage social media use to promote their shows, but then not make the content available to those who are swayed by it. If I see people discussing the latest episode of Heroes, for example, on Twitter or Facebook or a blog, I don't want to have to wait 6 months (thanks BBC, SciFi had a much faster turn around) before watching it. You miss out on part of the social experience of enjoying a serialised show. And there's no excuse anymore. If an illegal file sharer can copy a high definition version of a show, upload and seed it in a couple of hours, the producers should be equally as fast.

    The fact that people like the RIAA, MPAA, BPI etc etc can't see the absurdity of their current business model is what's driving them out of business, not their potential customers.

  • Comment number 53.

    i dont see the problem. there are 2 reasons why people download illegally:

    -1 They cant get it legally, some programs are only broadcast in one country and its not possible to get them in another country. In this case no sales are lost, downloaders couldnt pay for it in the first place anyway no harm done!

    -2 They want it sooner, no harm done here either, if its just a case of time then its likely they have paid a subscription/licence to get the programme anyway, companies dont get more money at certain times, this is why 'on demand' television is so popular.

    The tv industry isnt comparable to the music industry. Tv needs to learn and increase on demand viewing internationally, people wouldnt bother with illegal downloads if they could get it easally legally. And web advertising could get tv channels even more revenue.
    The legallity of 'illegal' downloads in my opinion is questionable. If no money is lost then where is the harm? The laws need to be made clearer to specifically prevent loss of revenue and not just blanket all downloads as illegal!

  • Comment number 54.

    Why do I have to wait for my 'local' tv network to broadcast a show before I can watch it, surely a better model is for the content producer to make it available online to a global audience just as soon as the product is made. The only section of the industry to lose out is the network (unless they are also the creator), the network itself is just a content distribution channel.
    The content producer is not responsible for the distributers, in fact the conventional distributers make it difficult for the consumers to gain access to the product and add unnecessary overhead to the product pricing.
    I already pay for a distribution channel of my choice (fast broadband) and would be happy to pay the content creator directly for their work, I just don't see why I should pay for an inconvenient distribution channel that I don't use (sky, cable, terrestial etc.)

  • Comment number 55.

    "Live television is still watched by millions for many hours each day" - except I have a pause button for my TV box. Often I'll pause just before the start of a show, get a drink of some kind, then unpause and fast forward through any adverts.

  • Comment number 56.


    Stealing and copyright infringement are not the same thing.

    Either way, people complaining that they can't access certain shows because they don't have Sky, or because they live in another country - well tough, tbh. You have to pay for the privelege of seeing or doing some thing, like owning a digital copy of a television show. You have no 'right' to see it. If it is not available to you legally then it is not available to you and you have to live with that.

    'But I want it!' is no excuse for breaking the law.


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