I recently came across an entertaining TV show that I had not seen before. My attempts to watch all episodes of the show convinced me that the entertainment industry, while making decent progress in the US, is still using a hopelessly obsolete business model when it comes to the global market.
The show I started watching is The Big Bang Theory. It is an entertaining nerd sitcom that I highly recommend. The show is currently on its fifth season in the US, while in Finland only three seasons have been aired so far.
Products money cannot buy, but you can get for free
So, first I went ahead and bought the DVD box set for seasons one to four. After that I ran into problems when I wanted to watch the fifth season, of which 10 episodes have now aired in the US.
While there are numerous options on how to buy the episodes online if you happen to live in the US, I could not find a single online store that would sell me the episodes to Finland.
If I lived in the US, I could have purchased a season pass to get all new episodes as soon as they are released, and get them stored in a cloud so that I could watch them on various devices. These are great new features, but unfortunately on a very limited market only.
So, two hours of searching for an online store proved futile. Now, let’s examine a completely hypothetical situation in which I had no P2P software installed and no specific knowledge on the current state of P2P besides general tech savvy. In this completely hypothetical situation, it takes one and a half hours total to find proper software, install it, download ten episodes of a TV show, find subtitles for these episodes, download them, and copy all of that to a USB flash drive and start watching it on a TV. If I already had the environment set up, it would take mere minutes.
I have been in the working life for years, so money is not an issue, definitely not when it’s about a few dozen bucks. However, I do value my time, and after wasting a fair bit of it looking for a legal alternative, I am quite pissed at the entertainment industry.
It is an instant, global economy now
This is all part of the communication revolution that online and social media have brought about. I didn’t dream of getting TV shows at the same time as the US back in the 1980s. Nowadays, if they are not available legally, they can be acquired with hardly any effort for free. Times have changed!
A global business model for the entertainment industry
It is important to note that a global business model is not simply a matter of taking the services that already exist in the US and spreading them around the globe. Yes, that is part of it: season passes and cloud services are more than welcome. But this business model can be improved upon.
Copy the DLC business model from the video game industry. DLC, downloadable content, refers to additional content for video games distributed through the internet, usually for a small fee. This business model would suit the entertainment industry very well. For example, they could have sold me the episodes of The Big Bang Theory at the same time as in the US, and then offer, for example, Finnish subtitles for a small additional fee at a later date when they are available. There really is no way I would pay full price again just for the subtitles, as the current business model insists, but a small fee could work.
Ditch the region-based business model. “This content cannot be sold to your current location” is a phrase I became very familiar with while looking for the new episodes. Seriously, this just is not working in the instant, global economy. All digital content has to be made available everywhere at the same time, or people will make it available for free. Translation takes time, local voice acting takes time, that is a given. However, these should be available separately when they are ready, and the original version should be available instantly for those who rather enjoy it straight away – they should be given the option to upgrade their purchase later on with local subtitles or voice acting, if they so choose, perhaps for a minor fee.
There always seem to be copyright infringement trials related to P2P networks going on these days. Based on the above, one major reason for this is simply the obsolete business model used by the entertainment industry: when people have to turn to P2P because many products are simply not sold to them, the barrier to turn to P2P for other products is lower as well.
Picture: The Big Bang Theory season 5 poster (fair use)