Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Piracy a Good Thing for Value? The Game of Thrones.


George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones is a wildly popular fantasy tale.  The HBO television series Game of Thrones has even eclipsed the popularity of Martin’s books and is apparently the most pirated television show ever.  I’ve only read part of the first book, but based on that reading the television series is an excellent retelling of the book (and at least for the part that I read the television series may be even better than the book).  In the United States, the first episode of the second season premiered on HBO last Sunday night.  Apparently after the airing of the episode and within a day, TorrentFreak reports that there were a million downloads of the show.  This is apparently a record.  TorrentFreak explains that one of the reasons for the number of downloads (besides popularity and avoiding paying to view it by subscription) is that there is a delay in releasing the show to markets outside the US.  This explanation seems to be bolstered by the fact that the leading downloading country is Australia and the leading downloading city is London.  Does the access by BitTorrent hurt HBO’s bottom line or not?  The Washington Post, the Public Broadcasting Service and CNN explore the issues.  According to some, the piracy may “generate a buzz” about the product—this may help promote the product and generate sales such as DVDs if it doesn’t generate subscriptions to HBO.  Some producers may be willing to pay handsomely for such buzz amongst their fans although not by allowing piracy (but see end user license agreements by Microsoft and Blizzard that allow some machinima and discussion about them here and here).  Suing your fans seems like a bad idea to me.  There is also a point, raised by someone at HBO, that piracy didn’t impact DVD sales.  And, of course, just because someone views something illegally doesn’t mean that they’d buy the real deal instead (but they may buy a real deal like the DVD or go see the eventual Game of Thrones movies—maybe those movies will be crowdfunded (doubtful)?).  And, Mike Rugnetta at the Public Broadcasting Service (remember Big Bird’s channel and Romney’s non-friend) has an interesting video about piracy helping the Game of Thrones here 
Someone important recently said something about copyright owners not having the right under the US Constitution to divide markets to maximize profit—is that a sign of the law catching up to the disruptive change of reality?  Access (Creation) is important, but an important question is who gets access and when (can we all be insiders at the same time?).  How much is the game changing?  Is winter coming?  Or must we pay the iron price?  Must we always pay our debts?  Maybe all of the above?  What do you think?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's the third season that premiered.

I suspect that HBO's comments are an attempt to leverage the cable industry to change the term of distribution. I assume that HBO cannot exploit other channels, like streaming or shorter release windows, because of the terms of its current distribution agreement. So HBO would be happy to point out that money is walking out the door so that it can renegotiate the deals in a way that lets it capture more value.

Max Well said...

The price of subscriptions should not be too expensive. If the price is affordable, piracy can be avoided or lessened.

Mike Mireles said...

Great comments! (yes, it is the third season--my mistake).

I must confess that the only reason I have a subscription to HBO (and I get a discount) is Game of Thrones. If my discount goes away, I may just cancel the subscription and wait for the DVDs.

Price, price and price--so important.