Moving away from Big Content

Pirate Bay Appeal Judges Cleared of Bias
The original trial judge, Tomas Norstrom, was investigated and cleared of bias after it was disclosed he was a member of the Swedish Copyright Association and the Swedish Association for the Protection of Industrial Copyright.

This is surprising to exactly no one. This is all WTO related. The Russians did the same thing to even though they were clearly well within the limits of Russian law. The Russians changed the law but Allofmp3 were grandfathered and would have been able to operate essentially forever. So the WTO went to the Duma and explained that unless Allofmp3 was made an example, they'd be on the receiving end of the WTO's formidable club. Same thing. They go to court and show that they are well within the confines of Russian law and, as in the Pirate Bay case, they lose anyway.

Look, the whole thing is a greased pig. I'm in favor of protections of intellectual property but if you're within the law, you're within the law. Blame the law for being badly written and creating loopholes that are exploited.

Many people, much smarter than me, have been talking about the shift away from Big Content for some time. Jeff Jarvis and Leo Laporte come to mind and have explained, in depth, that it's all changing. All of these attempts by the RIAA and MPAA to stop it from changing are fruitless. They cannot, however, figure out how to make money in a "freemium" model. Recently, had an article about canceling a network show from the perspective of a "suit" (production guy). I found it rather illuminating:

It's not just making the show, which is a massive undertaking in itself -- it's all the things that go along with it: Devising and executing a marketing campaign, a press strategy, a Web/mobile/social approach, selling the show to advertisers, scheduling the show (which is way more complicated than most people think btw). Someone, somewhere spent time working on everything you see around the show. Like the Web site? That was weeks of work. Read a blog interview with your favorite actor? That was because of the PR team. See a great billboard? Designers came up with the ad, and someone somewhere figured out which billboard to buy when and for how long and for how much.

It's not only human hours being devoted to that show. By the time you've seen it, we've already spent millions of dollars developing and making the show, and millions more on all the stuff that goes around the show. (Sidebar: Unless I miss my guess, at this point a BoingBoing commenter will chime in that this is the whole problem with the's huge and bloated with way too many layers of middle-men. And yes, it certainly seems that way. So far every attempt by anyone to not do all of this stuff hasn't worked. No one's found a way for indie TV to be successful the way indie films can be. I'd love to see it happen. If you can figure it out, give me a call.)

He stole my thunder. I was going to make exactly that sort of point. What he fails to understand is:

1. The world has changed. Giant web pushes and ad campaigns are showing smaller and smaller ROIs. The studios create bloated, overly complicated and generic websites for hundreds of thousands of dollars. They're trying to "brand" their web presence by making them cookie cutters but that's not the answer. You can do it cheaper, more creatively and make it more fitting to your show than you are.

2. A great many people in the TV/Movie world exist for no other purpose than to take money out of the system. They literally add no value. Production people must change something, anything, if they are to be viewed as having value. This does not often improve the product.

3. Free is not new, it predates paid TV. Networks have a short memory and seem to forget they've been giving away their product for free since TV began. Only with the rise of cable TV did their revenue model change. Now they want to charge you to have your TV hooked up and then charge you for the content.

4. Time-shifting is here to stay. Users Viewers no longer want to have their schedules dictated. Many of us cannot make that kind of dedicated investment. Life keeps getting in the way. Frankly, I watch very little live TV. Sporting events are the notable exceptions and even then, I can watch some of them later. I'm a huge fan of LOST on ABC. I never miss an episode but I never watched it live. Even if I had the time, I'd let the DVR record it and start watching about 45 minutes after it started. Why? I can skip the commercials. Currently your hour long show is about 42-44 minutes. The networks expect me to sit through 20 odd minutes of commercials for the privilege of watching their show. No thanks. I'd rather buy the show outright and pay to *not* watch commercials. This is the logic behind Hulu becoming a pay site. The problem is, they still have commercials. If they were smart, they'd make the basic version free and the premium version would not have commercials and have entire seasons on demand where the free version would only have a few episodes of the current season.

5. People are not going to "give you a call". They are going to simply make an end run around you. I am not going to take on a giant bloated quasi-monopoly and give them my new business model for free and expect them to throw money at me. Rather, I'm going to beat them at their own game by cutting my overhead and producing a quality product.

6. All of these efforts are locking down content is making people hate you. Yes we want free stuff but we'll pay for quality. Stop putting 50 goddamn commercials at the beginning of a DVD that I can't skip. What is more annoying than previews for movies that came out 5 years ago. When I put the disc in, start the movie. Waiting 20 minutes to watch the movie only makes me hate you more. As my own little protest, if I get a disc now from Netflix, I put it in the DVD player w/ the TV off about 20 min. before I'm ready to watch it. That way when I switch over to watch it, the main menu is waiting for me.

I'm hoping for the day that we unbundle not just channels for a la carte programming but shows. That is going to be the big one. Currently, the networks use this ridiculous antiquated system of determining who's watching what in the form of Nielson ratings. DVR data is much more accurate and timely. I assure you that if you had viewers that had to pay a nominal fee ($.99 per episode) that was commercial free and had to be downloaded, you'd have a much better idea of what your revenue would be and how many viewers you have. If a hit show has 4 million viewers per episode, you know how much you have to spend per episode. Frankly, if you can't make an hour of television for less than 4 million a week you ought to be out of business.


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