I quite honestly do not know how to react to the rampant stupidity going on with businesses world today. Business execs close their eyes to problems, don't serve their customers and then, when trouble starts eating away at profits, turn around and blame their customers for their woes! It's as if I were to stop writing in my blog, then turn around and blame my readers for not visiting my web site and instead reading somebody else's blog. Well, duh!
Reuters has a revealing article about television downloading entitled: '24' Makes Britain a Hotbed for Illicit TV Downloads. It basically goes on to report that TV fans in the UK are tired of waiting months for their favorite television programs to be aired in their corner of the world, so they are instead turning to the internet to get what they want. Well, duh! And it works both ways... Battlestar Galactica aired in Britain months before it did here, and I didn't want to wait for it either. BitTorrent here I come.
Since television network executives are so blatantly clueless, allow me to spell out reality for your incompetent asses...
- Ignoring a problem on the horizon does not make it go away. It's not as if this is something new, because you've already seen the same thing happen with the video game industry and the music industry... years ago. You saw that video game makers who failed to make simultaneous region releases ended up being pirated and traded because customers couldn't buy legally what everybody else had access to. Don't you get it? The internet has made the world a very small place. Friends are being made across the globe and television is a big part of people's lives. How can I discuss how much I loved the latest episode of Veronica Mars if my friends in the UK haven't seen it yet, and may never see it if the show isn't purchased to air there? You've known for years that increasing bandwidth and globalization was going to make it perfectly feasible for your television shows to be traded online. What did you do? NOTHING. Honestly, what did you expect was going to happen? Take a cue from the video game industry and work on getting simultaneous releases for your shows so people aren't forced to download them.
- If you don't want to sell your product in a way convenient to your customers, don't be surprised when people who want it decide to steal it instead. Did you learn nothing from the music industry? Why is it businesses never seem to take perceived set-backs as an opportunity? One of the reasons television shows are being traded online is because you can't buy them online. If I had a choice, I would ditch my expensive satellite dish and purchase only those television shows I want online, free of constant interruptions for advertising and in a portable format that I can watch on my laptop or video player wherever and whenever I want. You've seen the explosion in portable digital music players, and yet what have you done to service this hot trend in your own niche? NOTHING. You blissfully close your eyes to the fact that the digital revolution is happening. You ignore the obvious in that people want portability in their media. You stand confident that people will forever be willing to be chained to cable and satellite dishes, even though the opposite trend seems to be true. How long will you wait to service your customers? Right now, only the tech-savvy are downloading your shows. But in 1980, only the tech-savvy had computers. Will you wait until people are dumping cable and satellite by the thousands in favor of online trading, or will you get off your stupid asses and DO something about it now, while there's still time?
- Don't call your customers thieves when they're the ones buying your product. I pay $70 to DirectTV every month. I purchase DVDs for every television show I want to keep. I am a television whore who pays outrageous sums of money for what your selling. Don't call me a theif because I don't want to wait for your delayed broadcasts of Battlestar Galactica on Sci-Fi Channel, and instead get it from the internet. Don't call me a thief for downloading the latest episode of Las Vegas because my travel schedule doesn't allow me to watch it at home. Don't brand it stealing when I download the latest episode of Veronica Mars so I can archive it in case you decide not to release it on DVD. I pay you money! SO SERVICE YOUR CUSTOMERS!! Stop thinking name-calling and legal manipulations are going to make things better and instead SOLVE THE f#@%ING PROBLEM! Get Steve Jobs to open up an iTelevision Store, or make something yourselves. Offer a legal solution so you don't sound like a jackass when you claim everybody who downloads television shows are thieves. Give people the option to buy, and then go after the illegal downloaders with credibility instead of stupidity.
I am the first to admit that this is not a simple scenario, and don't claim to have all the answers for the problems you will face as you transition to the internet age. But here are some things to consider...
- Local television network affiliates are going to be livid that I am bypassing them and selling my product direct. Well, when people register to purchase their product online, ask for their zip code and share the wealth by lowering affiliate costs so they will continue to want to show your programming. And people are still going to want to watch the local news, so there is nothing stopping them from creating local digital download newscasts and podcasts of their own to expand revenues.
- Advertisers are going to be livid that I am bypassing them and selling programs they sponsor free of advertising. Well, as revenue starts coming in from direct sales, and viewership begins to drop, lower your advertising rates for hit shows. Who knows, when the balance shifts to online sales, and advertising on Desperate Housewives is so cheap that even smaller companies with tiny budgets can start advertising there, a bidding war may erupt to actually drive up advertising revenues!
- Good idea! And then I'll start interrupting digital downloads with advertising and make even more money! Then don't be surprised when people start sharing ad-free versions and won't buy your downloads anymore. People are sick and tired of ads interrupting the shows they watch, especially when they've PAID for them already. You've got your money, so don't get greedy or else people will revolt. Again. Perhaps one or two "sponsored by" ads in front of the show will be tolerated, but don't push your luck.
- People are still going to steal my programming and trade it online. Sure, but at least you are providing a legal option to buy for people who don't want to steal, and also giving you more legal leverage to go after those who would still steal from you.
- If I start the trend of selling online, and it's successful, won't studios start bypassing networks altogether and sell their programming directly? Probably. And it's your own damn fault. For decades you've jerked your customers around with bad scheduling, preemptive programing, and cancellations of shows they love. You've bombarded them with so much advertising that they can barely watch the shows they enjoy. You've covered the screen with distracting pop-up ads and news tickers and network ID badges. You've been systematically destroying the product you sell and there's no end in sight. Why wouldn't a studio want to eliminate all of this nonsense and sell direct? Better start channeling even more of your profits into studio production, dumbasses.
The thing that really gets me ranting is that television networks actually expect people to feel sorry for them! How am I supposed to feel sorry for somebody who is too stupid to keep in touch with customers and their market trends so they can stay in business? Networks are bloated with so much hypocrisy that NOBODY is going to shed a tear when they fade into irrelevance (we've been dying for that to happen with music labels for decades!). Liberation of video media is at hand and you can either accept it, service your customers, and give people what they want... or close up shop and let somebody else do it. Yes, I know it's hard, but nothing in business is ever easy. Just like life.