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read biography for - John Kirk

 John Kirk ( 1st May 2003, 11:21, Rank: Patrician )  reply

Hmm, interesting article there. I've given my opinions on this in a previous discussion: (union.ic.ac.uk), so I won't rehash them here. But looking at that article, there are a few significant points:

I think that both sides are using flawed arguments to defend their positions. Saying that it isn't piracy because the episodes aren't available in the UK doesn't work, since you don't know whether they will be available at a later date (e.g. when Firefly is screened on the UK Sci-Fi network, I doubt that many people from ICSF will be watching it). Similarly, saying "I'm not stupid enough to pay the asking price" doesn't really give you the moral high ground.

On the other hand, when the spokesman for the MPAA said "who is going to buy the DVD if they already have the show stored on their hard drive?", the answer is that there are people who do, e.g. people who have previously downloaded Stargate episodes and are now buying the box-sets of DVDs. Similarly, when the spokesman compared downloads to pocketing a DVD at Blockbuster, that doesn't work - everyone would recognise that as theft, because you are depriving the store of the opportunity to rent/sell that DVD to anyone else, whereas the standard defence for downloading is "they're no worse off than they were before".

I am curious about where they got their "top 10" list from. If they are able to get accurate information from the central KaZaA server, then I assume it will wind up going the same way as Napster, when the networks lean on it. I'd also like to see some real figures here, e.g. are there 20 people downloading "Star Trek" as compared to 10 people downloading "Smallville", or is it more like 2000?


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 karne ( 2nd May 2003, 11:45, Rank: GSV )  reply

Actually - the only area where piracy does have a serious effect on sales is probably PC gaming. A LOT of people download and play hacked and or leaked games and there is a strong tendency towards 'If I like it I'll buy it'. Which I can kind of see if that's what people actually do but many games companies are so small this seriously affects their sales.

On the flip side, most of the money from an indiviual sale goes to 'evil corporate' distributor not the games maker (e.g. Sierra, EA, Activision don't make games any more) and most people don't care much about ripping them off.

I've warzed games and other software. Now I can afford it I pay for games and £35 for 15+ hours of entertainment is more than fair imho. I'd love to buy DVDs of e.g. Farscape but even the special clearence 50% off price works out about 90 quid a season - and I'd want all of it. Ouch.

And that's paying for them NOW when the sales would have no effect on ratings or the show's chances at a rebirth.


read biography for - Sulkyblue

 Sulkyblue ( 2nd May 2003, 12:01, Rank: Nazgul )  reply

I have to say i'm not sure how much a drop in sales of dvds etc (if there is one) in the uk affects the us people, they generally seem to forget about viewers over here. I'm also inclined to say that most people who decide not to buy dvds because they've got a compelte set of divx's would probably have just taped them off tv and kept them (which is what I always used to do). If distributers want to sell more dvds I'd say the way forward is more special features (and popular one's like bloopers and interviews don't really cost that much) and releasing the damn things earlier. If you have to wait 5-6 years (as the US have for Buffy) then you're going to lose interest.
As for effects on ratings, I can understand why the BBC wouldn't care, obviously if you're fussed about seeing shows early you're going to be watching them on Sky. But I can see it would have an effect on sky subscriptions and ratings. Again the way to improve this is to cut down the gap between the US and europe. If you only have to wait a week or two then lots of people won't bother downloading, waiting 6 months - a year - 2 years however is gonna lead to more downloads.


read biography for - dormouse

 dormouse ( 2nd May 2003, 12:14, Rank: Jedi )  reply

actually in some cases, interviews on dvds don't cost much cos they don't pay the interviewees anything! that's why you won't see some of the actors doing commentaries on the b5 dvds...


read biography for - John Kirk

 John Kirk ( 2nd May 2003, 12:26, Rank: Patrician )  reply

A couple of points:

"£35 for 15+ hours of entertainment is more than fair imho" - admittedly Farscape is quite expensive, but the Stargate DVD box-sets are £40-45, for about 22 episodes (i.e. 16.5 hours), so that's not so far off the game equivalent.

However, the cheap alternative is to watch the episodes on TV. For instance, I have now seen up to the middle of season 5 of "Charmed" (100 episodes) in about a year, by watching them all on TV (i.e. no downloads/videos). It did get a bit confusing when I was watching different seasons on different days of the week (e.g. season 2 episode on Tuesday followed by season 4 episode on Thursday), but I was able to keep track. And obviously the earlier you start, the simpler it is; I could also have watched one season at a time, with the trade-off that it would take longer.

On a related note, I've also been watching "Sliders" on the Sci-Fi channel recently, as they only showed seasons 1-3 on BBC2 (about 5 years ago), so I watched season 4 last term, and I'm hoping they'll show season 5 at some point. Now, if Paramount (or whoever made the series) is still earning money from those episodes several years after the series finished, then that gives them an incentive to take a long-term view with current series. So, although I'm not going to see a "Sliders" revival, I'd certainly hope that this makes them less likely to cancel something else.

I wasn't sure whether to mention this next point, since it may sound like I'm blowing my own trumpet, but I think it's valid, so I will. While I was watching "Sliders", I saw adverts for "The Power of Love" CDs from Time Life - (www.timelife-europe.com). It looked like they had some decent songs there, so I decided to order the CDs. When I did, the website asked me where I'd heard about it, and I ticked the box for "The Sci-Fi channel". So, there are two issues here - buying CDs rather than downloading mp3s, and watching episodes on TV (with adverts) rather than downloading a DivX. (These CDs are in the "not available in shops" category, so I wouldn't have heard about them if I hadn't seen the advert). Now, I bought the CD because I liked the look of the music, not to subsidise the TV channel. However, the effect of this (hopefully) is that Time Life will think "Ah, advertising on the Sci-Fi channel is a good thing, since we get sales, so we'll keep doing that". Then the Sci-Fi channel think "Ok, buying popular series to show is a good thing, so that we keep viewers attention between the ad breaks". Then they pay money to the production companies, which leads into my previous comments. It's all a case of "follow the money..." Now, obviously they'll want more than one sale before they do this, but every little helps.

I think there are also two distinct motivations for people to download episodes. One reason is that you want to see the episode as soon as possible, either because it hasn't been screened in the UK yet, or because you missed it on TV, and you want to be able to follow the storyline the following week. The other reason is that you want to build a complete archive of all the episodes. So, I think that the first reason is competing with watching TV, and the second reason is competing with buying videos/DVDs.

I think part of the issue here may also be that people perceive TV programs as free, rather than something that you pay for, so downloading an episode doesn't feel wrong. And the TV companies have only themselves to blame for this - I remember a Simpsons episode (where Homer voices Poochie in the "Itchy and Scratchy" show), where they met some fans, who were criticising continuity errors in the cartoon. The fans were saying "As loyal viewers, we feel that the producers owe us something". Bart said "How do you work that one out? They give you hours of entertainment, for free!" Ultimately, I just think it's a good idea to keep a sense of the economics involved in the situation. I don't think this discussion is going to change anyone's mind, but it's something to bear in mind the next time you hear fans criticising the "greedy fat-cat executives" for cancelling a beloved show due to low ratings.


read biography for - dormouse

 dormouse ( 2nd May 2003, 12:44, Rank: Jedi )  reply

as with napster, there's a tendency to make a lot of fuss when the horse is already gone and not actually think about why it's bolted. i just hope the distributors realise the real point that this shows: people want, and will pay for, ease of use. it is easy to download things - if you have a high bandwidth connection, the appropriate downloading software, the technical knowhow, etc... - so you can watch what you want (even if it was last broadcast 10 years ago), when you want. far easier than faffing with a video recorder and tapes, or being in the house and remembering to watch when it's broadcast, if you're lucky enough to have it available at all. i'd be quite happy to pay for an on-demand service that supplied all the sci-fi i wanted - i am currently, after all! downloading isn't free...though of course it is cheaper than many (not all) of the legal ways of acquiring episodes/films.


read biography for - John Kirk

 John Kirk ( 2nd May 2003, 16:27, Rank: Patrician )  reply

Yup, that's a fair point. I heard recently that there are some official websites (from EMI etc.) selling mp3s - (news.bbc.co.uk). This is a good start, although mostly limited to the US at the moment, and I'd certainly be interested to see a commercial DivX service. Of course, price-wise, you'd still be paying the current costs (for ADSL line etc.) in addition to whatever the company charge. I'd be interested to see what price model they adopted, bearing in mind that renting episodes on video is significantly cheaper than buying them. I also recognise that there's a grey area at the moment, given that we all split the cost of TV licence/Sky, and that from a ratings point of view it doesn't matter whether there's 1 person watching TV or 4.


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 Dave ( 2nd May 2003, 16:35, Rank: Green Drazi )  reply

The primary revenue stream for US TV shows are the US Networks, and thus advertising. At the moment US advertisers seem to be going paranoid about TiVos, which allow adverts to be skipped at the press of a button. Presumably, they are also going paranoid about people downloading TV shows free of adverts. To the vast majority of US TV companies, the rest of the world doesn't exist. However, one area where there may be an issue with downloads, beyond the initial advertisers, is with reruns. There is much much more of this in the US than the UK. The companies will get some money each time a show is rerun, so long lived shows like ST:TOG can keep revenues going a long time. Downloads and imported DVDs can eat into this, and is in fact an issue related to region coding that the original designers of DVDs might not have realised. I regularly get asked to take Buffy DVD sets to the US since the UK gets them much earlier, possibly because old Buffy is still doing the rerun circuit. Region-free players are much harder to get in the US than the UK, possibly showing that MPAA is taking more of an interest in that market than Europe.

In classic slashdot tradition I haven't read the original article yet, but I suspect they're more worried about advertising revenue than anything else. No TV show gets made with the video/DVD market in mind. Its just an added bonus. What pays the bills is the advertising, and those of us who'd do things to get rid of the damn ads are their biggest enemy.


read biography for - Sulkyblue

 Sulkyblue ( 2nd May 2003, 17:21, Rank: Nazgul )  reply

Yes, the main income in the US is the advertisers and I can see how tivos would upset them (although if they think that people don't fastfoward adverts on videos they're sadly mistaken). Many shows in the US are distributed under the rules that they can't go to dvd for a certain length of time (often 5 years) so that they can keep milking the reruns. There's all manner of complicated things to do with syndication, rerun and distribution rights.

re: paying actors for dvd stuff. There's been a lot of fuss about actors etc not getting anything for dvd releases, these weren't included in their original contracts specifically but they can be forced to do them through clauses requiring them to do promotion/marketing stuff. Stuff made more recently is less of a problem 'cos they do dvd specials as they film the series and contract it in. The cynic in me would point out that very few of the B5 cast seem to be doing very much with their time and a little free publicity might not hurt them ;0)


read biography for - John Kirk

 John Kirk ( 2nd May 2003, 21:33, Rank: Patrician )  reply

One other thought on this matter. When I was at the Warner cinema earlier, I noticed that they check tickets when you move from the foyer to the corridor with all the screens/toilets, but not in the individual screen rooms (is there a better name for them?). Also, you don't get assigned a particular seat number - you can just sit anywhere. And in most cases, not all of the seats are taken (probably only 1/4 of them in tonight's screening). So, if you were so inclined, it would be feasible to buy a ticket for one film, then either stick around for the next showing (if you wanted to watch it twice), or go and see a different film on one of the other screens, without buying a new ticket. In fact, you could probably watch 5 films in a day, if you timed it right. And arguably there's no harm in this - as long as one ticket holder has shown up, the cinema is still going to show the film at the scheduled time, so it doesn't cost them any extra if a seat is occupied that would otherwise be empty. However, you wouldn't be able to do this at the Odeon, where they inspect tickets at the individual screens, and each ticket has a seat number, so it would cause trouble if you were sitting in someone else's seat.

Now, I know that nobody has advocated this, and I don't want it to seem like I'm putting up a straw man argument. In fact, I'm genuinely curious about people's opinions on this. Personally, I'd say that it's wrong, as you're abusing the cinema's trust.

All in all, I think that this is a sliding scale. At one end, you have the ICSF library, which (as I understand it) is technically illegal, but which I have no objection to; I treat that the same as friends lending books to each other. At the other end, you have the Stainless Steel Rat philosophy, where people say "it's ok to steal from large corporations because their insurance will cover it", which I disagree with. Or going even further, there's the SlashDot philosophy of "if you have weak security then it's your own fault if someone breaks in", which I also dispute. Anyway, the point is that the other things we're discussing occupy various points along the spectrum, and it's up to each individual to make his/her own decision about what is right and wrong. I'm not sure that there is an objective moral boundary, so I'm just trying to explain why I've made the choices that I have; I'm not looking to pass judgement on anyone else's choices.


read biography for - John Kirk

 John Kirk ( 2nd May 2003, 21:41, Rank: Patrician )  reply

Re: special features on DVDs, I can understand the marketing strategy of "this gives people an incentive to buy the DVDs, even if they've downloaded the episodes". However, when people can also download the special features, that doesn't really work anymore. The only potential exception I can think of is commentaries - I don't know all the technical details, so is it possible to download a separate audio track on its own, then merge that into the video file, or do you have to download the entire episode/film again as a separate version?


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