#piracy

Ernesto:

The latest episode of Game of Thrones has broken the record for the most people sharing a file simultaneously via BitTorrent. More than 193,000 people shared a single copy yesterday evening, and roughly 1.5 million people downloaded the episode during the first day.

These are unprecedented numbers – never before have 193,418 people shared a single file simultaneously. The previous record was set last year, when the season finale of Game of Thrones had 171,572 people sharing on a single tracker.

Just keep leaving that money on the table, HBO.

Ryan Lawler for TechCrunch:

What’s clear from the data is that not all the pirated downloads are coming from markets that didn’t have access to the show in the hours immediately after airing, and in fact, there’s a large number of viewers in the U.S. who just aren’t paying to watch the show.

Those behind Game of Thrones have suggested that a lot of the piracy stems from places like Australia, where the show faces a very long window before it’s available. And there is clearly quite the piracy problem there. But it’s not the number one market when it comes to pirating the show. That would be the U.S.

And it will remain the U.S. until we can legally buy the show immediately without a cable subscription.

Regarding the previous two HBO/Game of Thrones links, Dustin Curtis actually watched the videos (from late last year) to get some context around what HBO president Eric Kessler actually said.

As Curtis notes, the Forbes piece does seem to be linkbait-centric, but it doesn’t make the overall point incorrect. Just look at one key portion of what Kessler said:

What you don’t want to do is to pursue a distribution channel over here [ed: the internet], where you think, well, let’s go around the affiliate and we’ll get a couple hundred thousand subs. But the promotional, and packaging support we get over here [ed: the affiliate networks], which, by the way, is the foundation of our 30 million subs and enables us to get 10 million transactions, if that dissipates, and that shrinks, then we will lose a lot of subs over here. 

The error in this thinking remains the notion that the cable infrastructure may not shrink. It absolutely will. It’s just a matter of when. Kessler’s comments are disturbing because he seems to view it as at least partially his job to ensure that this doesn’t happen. But it’s going to happen. It’s inevitable. He doesn’t see it. 

Essentially, Kessler won’t act because he’s afraid to disrupt his own current cash cow. But by failing to act, he’s ensuring it’s going to be disrupted by someone else. Either you disrupt your own business on your own terms, or you get disrupted by someone else on their terms.

But maybe that will be a problem for HBO’s next president.

After nearly two years off the air, Mad Men starts up again on Sunday. Can’t wait.

Obviously, I’ve been bitching a lot about the new season of Game of Thrones because I can’t watch it (legally) for a year since I don’t have cable. But the same isn’t true of Mad Men — I already bought the season pass through iTunes. I have to wait a day longer than those with cable (well, technically until midnight most of the time), but I’m fine with that.

Amazon also emailed this morning to say they have a season pass option for the new season of Mad Men through Amazon Instant Video. Also cool. One problem: I can’t for the life of me find a price anywhere. And there are about 17 possible buttons to click. This entire design really needs to be re-thought. 

Anyway, good on AMC for giving me options to give them money for their great content.

Actor/comedian Aziz Ansari shares my Games of Thrones pain. As he tells GQ:

The way people release media is so far behind the way people actually consume it. There’s so much frustration. I mean, I get frustrated. I want to watch Game of Thrones. I’d love to see it before it comes back. Is it on iTunes? Do I watch it on HBO On Demand? What’s going on? What do I do? I bought the DVD, but I can’t watch it on my iPad?

And:

This is $5, and you have a video file that you can watch anywhere. I think people like the simplicity. Many surveys have people who stream TV shows or steal content saying that if it was available at a fair price and in a convenient form, they wouldn’t steal. And I believe that. Let’s say you hear that show Homeland is great, and you don’t have Showtime. You want to buy it. You go to Amazon, it’s not there. You go to Netflix, it’s not there. OK, fuck it, you’re just going to steal it from a torrent. But if you saw that it was $10, you could get all the episodes and watch it on anything, wouldn’t you do that? If you knew that the quality was proper and everything?

A-fucking-men. 

And unlike me, Ansari is in a position to do something about it on his end. He has put his comedy special online Louis C.K.-style.

For $5, you buy it, you own it, you can watch it anywhere. Support sanity.

[thanks Eric]

Winter And The Wall

In response to my PandoDaily post about Game of Thrones earlier, Trevor Gilbert tries his hand at parody. Not all bad, but a few quick problems:

1) You can buy an unlocked iPhone.

2) Even if you stole the iPhone, you wouldn’t actually be able to use it on a carrier’s network without paying them.

3) Pretty much everything else.

But Gilbert knows this, I have to assume. From the comments, it seems he takes issue with my “sense of entitlement”. Clearly lost on him (and plenty others!) is the point. 

The point is the very essence of piracy.

Piracy does not exist because there are evil people out there who are thieves and/or hate capitalism and/or feel entitled. Sure, there are some bad eggs, but they’re the exception, not the rule. Piracy exists because it’s often an easier way of obtaining content than the legal means. And sometimes, it’s the only way. 

HBO doesn’t care right now because they’re raking in the money. Good for them. But they’re fools if they think the status quo will be maintained indefinitely. We’re seeing the beginning stages of where this is going right now. The pirating of Game of Thrones is all about ease of access to content.

Right now, you could wait a year to pay to get the content legally, or you could get it today for free. Remove the money element. It matters, but it’s not the key. The key is that it’s today versus a year from today. That’s the problem here.

Much of the arguments in defense of HBO today have been that it’s their content and they can do what they want. True! But they’re doing so blindly as gatekeepers who have total faith in their wall. The problem is that the wall is already full of holes.

Currently, they’re pretending the wall is perfectly intact. In a year, they’ll admit it’s been breached, and they’ll try to rebuild it. But they won’t be able to. 5 years from now, hardly anyone will be using the gate. 

So why not just let everyone in now and charge them all a fee? Because admitting the wall is crumbling will mean accepting less money. Supply/demand. No one ever wants to take less money. But what they’ll have to come to terms with in the future is that less money is better than no money at all. 

And yes, perhaps that means the end of high-end content like Game of Thrones which features massive, movie-like budgets. That sucks. But it is what it is. 

My post was merely meant as a wake-up call for HBO and other content providers. Winter is indeed coming. A lot of people pirate today because it’s easier than getting the content legally. In a couple years, as younger people not accustomed to paying for cable grow up, so will the number of pirates for artificially restrained content like Game of Thrones. In five years, it’s not going to be pretty at all.

Unless HBO and the others get out ahead of this, that is. 

The cable empires are going to die. It’s just the way it is. Nothing lasts forever. The backup plan of the premium content players should be what Netflix is doing. Content everywhere at a fair price. And they should start right now. But they’re all scared shitless to even think of walking away from that cable money.

So it will have to start walking away from them.

And make no mistake, it will. It’s just a question of when.

One year? Two years? Five years? HBO and the rest just better hope that they don’t mistime the retreat because they’re drunk on the wine from a dying resource. If piracy becomes the norm rather than the fringe, they’re going to get royally screwed on the deals for someone else to bring their house back in order. See also: the music industry.

Hollywood’s core piracy “problem" is perfectly captured in this one cartoon by The Oatmeal.

In fact, I’ve had this exact debate with myself. I really want to watch Game of Thrones. But I’m not an HBO subscriber because I’m not a cable subscriber and unfortunately, the two go hand-in-hand, no matter what I’m willing to pay.

Speaking of “willing to pay”, okay fine, I can’t get Game of Thrones on HBO, but I’m willing to pay a quite a bit of money to get it via iTunes. Wait. Nope. Can’t do that either. At least not for a few more months — well over a year after the first season wrapped.

Netflix? Nope. Not streaming or DVD/Blu-ray. Amazon? Nope. HBO.com? Not unless I’m a cable subscriber. 

So my options are…

…well, I only have one option. Thanks Hollywood!

[via Yun on Twitter]