Should networks make abandoned shows available for Download ?

Recently there has been a bit of a surge in “abandoned” shows here in Aus, with poor performing content either being dropped our bounced about the timetable (often with little or no warning) so it’s impossible to keep up.

Luckily a lot of shows are already available here in Aus thanks to BitTorrent and similar distribution mechanisms, but recently there have been calls for the networks to organise a licencing model to allow viewers to download the “missing” episodes of abandoned (and possibly even old shows that are not scheduled for re-runs)

Despite my reluctance to provide the television networks with a mechanism to “blackmail” viewers into parting with cash simply by not showing the last few eps of a season, or holding them over until they are really old news I think there is a possible model here.

However there are a couple of provisos;

  • Quality should be acceptable… no low-quality dubs from a VHS, the content should be broadcast quality (including if available HD and WS versions) and in a range of formats (some people like WM, some Real, Some QT, including H.254, and some DivX)
  • No additional payload…. If I’m paying for it I don’t want advertising, either in-stream or top/tail (well, maybe tail is acceptable)
  • DRM while understandable should not be onerous. If I want to burn it to DVD to watch on my Sony Wega in the lounge-room I should be able to, not be stuck with watching on a 14” monitor in the back room. If I want to loan in to a friend (or make a permanent gift of it) I should be able to. And if I move to the UK or the US some magic flag should not make the recording useless (my biggest gripe about purchasing legitimate DVDs)
  • Download bandwidth pricing in Australia has to change. I don’t mind paying a reasonable sum for the episode to either an ISP or the Network, but when I have to pay what the Network thinks is reasonable and then factor in the cost of downloading it (either as a straight per MB charge, or the risk of hitting a bandwidth cap) then the value to me starts to diminish rapidly.

For too long the Australian FTA networks have got away with treating the viewers with contempt. If they can’t respect the viewers (who in turn provide the Networks with the reach that they charge the advertisers and show sponsors for access to) then they should not be surprised that, if technology provides a more user-friendly alternative, viewers take their eyeballs elsewhere. As to the legality of this…. it’s pretty much un-enforceable. The ‘arms race’ of protections vs hacks is never going to end until the demand for content wanes below the “too hard” threshold. And if the networks keep increasing the pain threshold then the barriers will be surmounted.

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