First we’re gonna download the show off BitTorrent, and then we’re gonna go out and get some Cheetos, and some S’mores, man … oooh! And don’t forget the Doritos…
So amongst all the wailing and gnashing of teeth over illegal downloading, the response by the producer of the cult Showtime hit show "Weeds" is refreshing:
"Revenue aside, I don’t expect to get rich on ‘Weeds,’" she said, sounding downright jubilant. "I’m excited it’s out there. Showtime is great, but it does have a limited audience."
So while broadcast-network representatives express concern and frustration that their advertisers will be horrified by ever-declining audiences and buzz, Showtime can breathe easy: As a premium cable network, it has no advertisers, and with only 14.5 million paid subscribers, almost any sampling of its shows is seen as free promotion for the network.
What a great, enlightened and smart attitude to take. Most of the revenue generated by TV shows these days is from the DVD sales anyway. Yeah, I know – having the show downloadable on Torrent cuts into the box set sales … but then again, as more and more people are saying these days, they download and watch the show on computer, and then if they really like it, they’ll go out and buy the official version, so they get the high-quality one with all the extras, audio tracks, subtitles, etc.
Last night, I watched the movie "Ratatouille" on a Russian-version DVD. I was impressed with the packaging – the DVD cover looked exactly like the official version – down to the tech specs on the back of the DVD listing the 2:35 aspect ratio, DTS sound, etc. The movie itself was obviously a pirate of a screening, down to the audience laughter and reactions and scenes obscured by someone standing up and walking off to get more popcorn. But watching the movie in that way, with the grainy picture-of-a-picture feeling made me want to see it in its true resolution. The core story was so enjoyable that I want to see it again, and I am willing to pay for that privilege.
I know that this is not going to provide as fat a profit margin as the Good Old Days, when the captive audience had to pay whatever freight the content distributors felt like extorting … but the digital genie is out of the virtual bottle, and the fact that I can get a pro-looking copy of a movie that’s still doing business in the first-run theaters is very telling. And the fact that this is happening IN RUSSIA, and that the translator that I got this movie from has had it for a while, is even more interesting. It means that the black market distribution channels are even more efficient than the legit channels; to get the movie shot, rendered, set up with a still frame spelling out "Ratatouille" in Russian, with the menu items (12 chapters, jump to scene, etc.), and packaged in a plastic jewel case means that the operations set up to do so have done this enough to really work the kinks out of their operation.
The Ad Age article goes on to speculate that Joost may actually save TV producers from the relentless piracy:
Still in beta, Joost already has moved to make headline-grabbing piracy a thing of the past by co-opting web pirates’ hunger for the new. Viacom-owned basic-cable network VH1 made all eight episodes of its series "I Hate My 30s" available on Joost beginning July 17, nearly two weeks before its debut on the music-themed network. Pausing a show such as "30s" is possible on Joost, but rewinding and fast-forwarding aren’t, nor is saving a show to a computer or sharing it with other websites.