If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll have noticed earlier today that I went off on one about shiny discs versus naughty downloads of TV shows and films. My rant was prompted by two things:
- Studios continuing to whinge about the eleven billion dollars per second they’re apparently losing through the evils of piracy, oblivious to the fact they are in part to blame for said piracy;
- A number of official pre-recorded shiny discs I’ve recently bought that made me want to hit things.
In the latter case, it’s commonplace to plonk your shiny disc in your shiny disc player and watch, getting increasingly angry, as the following happens:
- Unskippable company logos, to remind you who’s wasting your time;
- Unskippable piracy warning, to remind you who’s patronising you;
- Unskippable adverts and trailers, to remind you about things you either already own, didn’t want to buy, or perhaps didn’t want to buy a while ago, when you first bought the shiny disc;
- Unskippable advert about some other format that you don’t care about or already own, to remind you to add ‘the people who compiled this disc’ to your list;
- Unskippable animated menu, to remind you that the studio’s art department are just as dickish as its marketing and legal teams.
Phew! That all takes a while. But at least now you can play your show—well, at least if the stupid unskippable animated menu doesn’t continue stupidly animating between pages, like some kind of stupid videogame where you get to control precisely nothing.
But wait! Then this happens:
- Unskippable warning that the commentary on this disc might contain opinions that differ from those of the studio, to remind you that sometimes it would be better to put disclaimers on the box, or in a little menu option called ‘disclaimers’, like they do on websites;
- Another unskippable piracy warning, to remind you that, yes, these guys really hate you;
- Unskippable stupid logo for the stupid sound encoding the stupid disc makes, to remind you to hate related parties and not just the studio itself;
- More unskippable logos, to remind you that you’ve just wasted minutes of your life, for no good reason.
I’ve recently bought discs that do exactly this, and it drives me nuts. In one case, I have an ‘acquired’ digital copy of some episodes of one of the TV shows, and here’s what happens when I select a file:
- It plays, immediately, and with no fuss.
“Aha,” you might argue, “studios are getting this! Just buy digital downloads, you idiot! They don’t have all this crap welded to them.” And that is true. Fire up an episode of, say, Castle on the Apple TV and it goes right to the content itself, without all the associated crap. But here’s the thing: studios still clearly want you buying shiny discs and not digital files, presumably because shiny discs provide more profit, or just because they hate you. I say this on the basis that:
- Digital content (in terms of access) is haphazard and inconsistent across territories, often being hugely delayed outside of the home territory and sometimes not showing up elsewhere at all;
- Digital content is often removed from services after a short time (such as movies that suddenly vanish from the Apple TV);
- Digital content is typically priced at least as high as a shiny disc, and older content is rarely discounted, leading to the absurd comparison of “shall I buy this TV show on iTunes for £40 or just grab the DVD for a fiver?”;
- Digital content is sometimes locked down with DRM, making it hard or impossible to transfer between devices you own.
By comparison, illegal content is:
- Available worldwide, shortly after broadcast;
- Typically available for a lot longer than official digital content;
- Easy to transfer between devices.
The continued bitching of the film and TV industries and its support for draconian copyright measures is really pissing me off. The industries still refuse, for various reasons, to provide anywhere near the same level of user experience in bought media—be it digital or physical—that people can get with illegally downloaded content. There will, of course, always be people who refuse to pay for anything—but they are a lost cause; however, most people are happy to pay for convenience and immediacy. The thing is, they don’t want to wait. It’s no longer the 1980s, where you don’t really know right away what’s going on elsewhere in the world. When a new episode of House airs in the USA or Doctor Who on the BBC, everyone who’s a fan knows about this. If your studio isn’t then making this content legally available, affordably, and on a worldwide basis, shortly after broadcast, you’ve only yourselves to blame when people hit torrent websites and download it for free.
Companies do a lot better commercially when it appears they don’t hate their customers with a frenzied passion.
When some chunks of the music industry realised this, ditched DRM, embraced digital and mostly stopped being dicks, things started to improve. The same could be true for the movie and TV industries too, but they have to want to stop being dicks first.