Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Piracy as a business model

What?! What was the title? Is this a typo? Is this guy saying that we should advocate stealing of the hard work writers and producers? Calm down, it's not what you think.

I share a ritual with a close friend of mine. Every once in a while one of us takes his laptop to the other one's house. We copy all the interesting "crap" we can stumble upon the net. On the last iteration I gota video which had a very interesting title: "The future of bit torrent". I sat down, watched it, and was absolutely stunned by what I saw.

It's a video of an exposition at a film school in australia. You'll find a transcript and a link to download the video here. I recently discovered this is actually from last year, but I recently discovered it. Besides, the internet is a big enough place, so it may be news to you as well. While I did not find what I expected, I did find it a very interesting subject.

The speaker was describing what initiated the success of Battlestar Galactica, and other shows which have had a similar phenomenon. This show was leaked on bittorrent previous to it's release on TV. Instead of this causing a slump in the show's ratings, it did quite the opposite. The show is one of the biggest successes of the Sci-Fi channel. The explanation is simple. The social networks (be it on myspace or just dudes that hang out) spread the word, and everyone seemed to like it. This was pivotal to constructing the large fan base the show enjoys today.

This is all great, but if the show is distributed off bittorrent, how get any earnings? This is something else he mentioned. There is a long chain from the people that produce the content, to the people that actually consume it. With this medium of distribution you can cut the middle men, which, in turn will cut distrubition costs. Aside from this, we all know that bittorrent as a technology and distribution medium is marvelous at helping us reduce costs. Since I don't want anyone to be left out, wikipedia has an excelent description of the technology, if reference is necesary. You'll find it here.

Fine, the distribution problem is solved, that will save me money, but where will the money come in from? Bugs. No not, insects. No, not the software issues that haunt us. Have you ever watched a sporting event and have had a semi transparent logo of a commercial product or service stare at you for part or all the event? That's it. It's a way to brand the content with an advertiser, in a way that will help gain a direct relationship between producer and advertiser (keeping the producer happy), and will force consumers to actually watch the ad instead of flipping the channel or cutting then out, (making the advertiser happy). It can be customized be region or demgraphic. One thing I totally agree with the speaker on: The 15/30 second TV ad is dead. It just doesn't know it yet.

I don't think this is a solution for everyone. There is a lot of content that will benefit from keeping it's rightful place in television. None the less, this opens the playing field for a whole new world of content. No longer do you need to compete for time slots, no longer only highest bidder gets a chance to show what they are made of. This is a medium where QUALITY determines who will be consumed. The community decides what's best, not an executive at a network television company.

In the end, all bittorrent is doing is fulfulling the consumers needs. We want the full triangle: good, cheap AND fast. We don't want to watch things monday night at 8:00 pm. We don't want to necessarily sit in front of a TV. It's a diverse world, with diverse people, who have diverse styles, activities and interests. You cannot paint them all with the same brush! This adoption is only natural.

Don't believe me? Fine. Believe Anne Sweeny, one of the top execs of Disney, stating that piracy is a business model they need to compete with. Or check out the deal that the bittorrent guys made with major studios to legally distribute content.

Bittorrent is here to stay. It doesn't matter what the MAFIIA says. It doesn't matter if the lobby convince Ted Stevens and his buddies that this is the product of conmunism and devil worship, all while clogging our precious tubes. It will stay because it is the will of the collective. Despite the great mass of power of a few, it will never match the power of the many.