Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Disrupting the Television

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  • Tom Semmens,

    And, increasingly, to watch those shows, it’s necessary to pay Sky TV a lot of money (for things you may not wish to buy) to watch them on Soho.

    My view is Sky is extremely vulnerable to competition because of the way they treat their customers. Sky are generally regarded as racketeers intent on extracting monopoly rents. They’ve shifted all the decent TV off their basic packages simply so they can charge you more to watch them. I guarantee when they have enough people on the plans that include SoHo and the Arts Channel, they’ll create another walled off space and shift all the new shows into that to soak their captive customers just a little bit more.

    Complicated, isn’t it?

    So reputably was the Gordian knot, but like Alexander people have simply sliced through the problem via the internet.

    Outside sport, I seldom plan to watch particular scheduled TV shows anymore. I’ve just fallen out of the habit. Anyone with half a brain can find the shows they want (or may want) to watch within 24 hours of them screening. Far better to do a bit of downloading and watch “Game of Thrones” in three hour Sunday night (curry & lager night at our house!) sessions with the flatties.

    The resentment at Sky’s predatory pricing and abysmal service runs deep in me at least, I loath having to spend my money with such an outfit simply because I have no choice if I want to watch rugby. so once I find someone in Russia who likes Super 15 and All Black rugby enough to stream it live (or with a short delay, I am not fussed) reliably, I will take great pleasure in phoning Sky and telling they can shove their monopoly right up their arses.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1711 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    so once I find someone in Russia who likes Super 15 and All Black rugby enough to stream it live (or with a short delay, I am not fussed) reliably, I will take great pleasure in phoning Sky and telling they can shove their monopoly right up their arses.

    The more mainstream solution would be to force Sky into a regulated wholesale market, like the one overseen by Ofcom in Britain, which prevents the kind of predatory bundling Sky does here. So a third-party fibre service provider would be able to pay a fair price for parts of the Sky service -- say, Sky Sport One and Two -- and onsell them to its customers, rather than having Sky dictate (as Telecom did in the 90s) the entire market to its advantage.

    But, hey, whatever works for you :-)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17941 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    The only reason I keenly await the arrival of a rugby mad Russian is I believe that that (along with the Rapture) is more likely to occur in my lifetime than any of our neo-liberal elite imposing any sort of broadcasting regulation on Sky.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1711 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    If we could get only the Sky channels we wanted, we would be buying Soho and rugby / sports, and maybe one or two other things. It would be great to be able to pay for just the channels we want. Because we can't, we don't get Sky at all, and we put off watching series like Game of Thrones until we can buy them on DVD, and spend several nights in a row veging on the sofa watching them.

    Manawatu City • Since Nov 2006 • 1273 posts Report Reply

  • Nick Melchior,

    The Gordian knot is a good metaphor here because millions of people are simply slicing through it. So it may be complicated but the only option is to provide legal alternatives because the current ones aren't working.

    For example: I work for a publishing company that, by and large, signs global rights for our books. We've got global sales and marketing and we sell our books everywhere. In some cases we act as the local agents for other publsihers who don't have a presence in some territories where we do have one. This requires pretty serious investment but if we only did it for ebooks, it would require a lot less.

    A US publisher, Tor, publishes lots of books I want to read and I want to read them on my Kindle. Unfortunately, they only get US rights to the ebook (or in many cases short fiction I can read for free on their website). I emailed them about this and they said 'contracts are tricky' but didn't answer any more emails after I explained what I do for a living.

    So how do I get Tor books? Well, generally I tell Amazon I live in the US and get the pricing there. But sometimes I order the book in physical form and other times I pirate it.

    It's in the interests of content companies to sort this out. If HBO made HBO Go available without a cable subscription anywhere in the world I'd sign up tomorrow (especially if they made the Xbox app available in Australia). But there are obviosuly deals or other itnerests that prevent this so they don't...

    Melbourne • Since Nov 2006 • 30 posts Report Reply

  • cphilpott, in reply to Nick Melchior,

    It's in the interests of content companies to sort this out. If HBO made HBO Go available without a cable subscription anywhere in the world I'd sign up tomorrow

    I'd like to think I would too - but would making HBO Go available internationally actually slow down piracy? People are so used to getting something for nothing that I don't think there's anything HBO - or any other content producer - could do to stop piracy at this point. HBO surely would've looked closely at the Australian and NZ markets and decided there was no advantage in doing anything here, other than giving the rights to their shows to the likes of SoHo and Showcase (and occasionally other networks, like Enlightened airing on TV One).

    Game Of Thrones is the classic example, I think. SoHo airs new episodes a week after the USA, yet nearly everyone I know who watches the show is just downloading it because a) they can't be bothered waiting a week, or b) they can't be bothered waiting for SoHo. I would venture to guess that, even if GoT was airing here a few hours after the US (it airs in the USA around 2pm on a Monday, so could air here at 8.30pm that night), people would still download for exactly the same reason. There is no changing that attitude. And it is an attitude that needs to change.

    New Zealand • Since May 2012 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Lyall,

    Well I'm sure the news media will be quick to point out that the Copyright act explicitly allows them to copy certain works for "fair dealing":

    Criticism, review, and news reporting

    (1) Fair dealing with a work for the purposes of criticism or review, of that or another work or of a performance of a work, does not infringe copyright in the work if such fair dealing is accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement.

    (2) Fair dealing with a work for the purpose of reporting current events by means of a sound recording, film, or communication work does not infringe copyright in the work.

    (3) Fair dealing with a work (other than a photograph) for the purposes of reporting current events by any means other than those referred to in subsection (2) does not infringe copyright in the work if such fair dealing is accompanied by a sufficient acknowledgement.

    Although I'm not a lawyer so I don't understand exactly what section 2 and 3 mean (especially the blanket exclusion of photographs). Also since blogs and news websites keep articles up forever it might be argued that they are no longer "current events".

    Either way if you photograph somebody famous drunk and semi-undressed one evening then call the tabloid media to try and sell it before you post it online.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 17 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    I keenly await the arrival of a rugby mad Russian

    there's a short film in there somewhere

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15716 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Simon Lyall,

    Although I’m not a lawyer so I don’t understand exactly what section 2 and 3 mean (especially the blanket exclusion of photographs).

    We lean fairly heavily on the fair dealing provision at Media7, but we are a media review show.

    In Jackson's case, his pics were picked up and used as feature content, which clearly isn't in the spirit of the law.

    And no, I don't get the blanket exclusion of photos either.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17941 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Webber, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    I agree with much of what Tom says. But I don’t blame Sky for putting all its rugby content behind a paywall at high prices – that’s their business model. I put more blame on the short-sightedness of the NZRFU for banishing us to a life of pay TV nocturnal rugby. In Australia, sports administrators require that the game of the week (at least) is available live and free-to-air. Aussie Rules and rugby league still play games during the afternoon. So families can go to the ground together or watch live on TV. My rugby-mad 7 year old had only watched club rugby live until we took him to Fiji v Samoa at the RWC and then let him stay up to watch the RWC final on TV. End of pet rant.

    On the topic at hand… In our house a couple of programmes are on weekly recording schedule and I watch them when convenient for me. I’m not sure how the free-to-air networks sell their advertising, I certainly watch none of it and don’t know many people that do. I assume they’re working on Max Headroom style blipverts that work when viewed at 32x normal speed.

    The rest of our relatively minimal viewing is downloaded.

    I buy F1’s grossly overpriced iPhone live timing app and, having given Bernie Eccleston my $37, feel no qualms in grabbing a fabulous HD torrent of every race first thing on Monday morning (and watch it before turning on the radio or reading the newspaper).

    Like theoatmeal, I haven’t found a way of paying HBO for Game of Thrones yet.

    Like Tom, the biggest problem I have is with rugby. It is not easily downloadable at decent quality. However, I was able to watch a live stream of an All Blacks vs South Africa test in a Singapore Airline lounge last year after paying some pirate a subscription of $30 for a year of unlimited access to his/her theivery.

    So it seems to me that all the models of distribution are broken. Free-to-air relies on ads that are increasingly no viewed and therefore not valuable. Local pay TV distribution of high-rating drama is bypassed by downloaded from the net. Maybe only live niche sport is still effectively captured by the pay TV model until the mad Russians get their quality sorted?

    Since Nov 2006 • 18 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    . SoHo airs new episodes a week after the USA, yet nearly everyone I know who watches the show is just downloading it because a) they can’t be bothered waiting a week, or b) they can’t be bothered waiting for SoHo.

    But I think habit has something to do with this as well. Once, we had the habit of planning to be watching channel one at 8.30pm on Monday for the latest episode. But what if I am baking a batch of ANZAC biscuits on Monday night for a morning tea at work tomorrow? Like a lot of people I have grown accustomed to watching things when I want. That might mean idling away a mild hangover on a Saturday afternoon with a few episodes of the Walking Dead I haven’t got around to watching yet as much as watching something hot off the torrents. My flatmate has every episode of Family Guy ever made, and often is the weekend mornings when we hear the voices of the Griffiths family mingle with the smells of our coffee perk and bread maker. Much is made these days about how the next retail revolution is all about personalised products, design your own tee shirts, beer bottle labels, whatever. Trying to force people to watch media content at times of someone else’s choosing just isn’t going to work in a world full of people increasingly accustomed to personalised instant gratification.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1711 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed,

    I guess if Fyx can become the Ihug of NZ broadband, that's a consolation prize enough.

    Still, I'm for anything that boots out the middleman in the media sector. Who knows how Megabox would have turned out...

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 3897 posts Report Reply

  • Shaun Lott,

    Waitakere • Since Aug 2009 • 45 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    The thing coming through from TV sources today is that it's probably the overseas producers who've complained about Fyx. The current distribution system provides them with big chunks of cash, up front, from a small number of rights-buying customers (i.e.: domestic broadcasters).

    Could they make the $100m they earn from New Zealand rights annually by dealing with individuals? It's not actually clear they would.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17941 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    The thing coming through from TV sources today is that it’s probably the overseas producers who’ve complained about Fyx.

    Clearly not TVNZ or Sky then who officially complained. They probably shopped Fyx to the filth though.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1711 posts Report Reply

  • merc, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Ah stuff it let's just cut out the middle persons and give them a 100 million tax break, some free cgi and cut-rate extras.../it's a mashup/
    Joyce and Key could stitch this deal together in a casino minute, using the F.B.I. to enforce it.

    Since Dec 2006 • 2468 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Deborah,

    until we can buy them on DVD

    Snap. Also I love the resolution of Blu-ray so I'd much rather wait for the Blu-Ray and watch in high def with no ad breaks - except if we need more wine.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3108 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Webber, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Could they make the $100m they earn from New Zealand rights annually by dealing with individuals? It’s not actually clear they would.

    Possibly not. But will the rights be worth $100m next year if a significant portion of the market is bypassing the local distributor, with or without Fyx?

    Since Nov 2006 • 18 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    I have an odd problem in that I won't pirate TV programs. There are things I will pirate especially as for books when local distributers appear to be the ones restricting sale to NZ. Note I try very hard to pay the author but sometimes it's very difficult.

    But for TV programs especially good ones the problem I have is who will pay to get them made? At the moment I'm just not sure I know. I worry that if everyone pirates TV content, nobody will be able to pay to have good content made.

    So I buy the Blu-ray. And when my friends offer me a burned copy of GoT I say no - is that stupid?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3108 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    But for TV programs especially good ones the problem I have is who will pay to get them made?

    We don't do movies in our house. And I feel no guilt at all about grabbing documentaries that won't screen here for years, if ever.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17941 posts Report Reply

  • Nick Melchior, in reply to cphilpott,

    This is true to a point, but HBO are hardly running out of cash at the moment and I know a lot of people who get Sky more or less for SoHo. But I would be enourmously surprised if HBO did any research whatsoever about creating HGOGo for Australia.

    Melbourne • Since Nov 2006 • 30 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Russell Brown,

    And I feel no guilt at all about grabbing documentaries that won’t screen here for years, if ever.

    Good call.

    And I'm not trying to be holier than thou about my attitude. It's just I can afford to pay and since I don't really understand how writers/directors/etc all get paid for TV programs I figure I should contribute. Heck I don't even know if that's the right thing to do, maybe breaking the system is the right thing because it might lead to money going to the actual creative artists and not the business that exploits them.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3108 posts Report Reply

  • Alice Ronald, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    And my thing is music, mostly because I have friends who are musicians. My flatmate, who's worked in television, won't pirate TV shows, but is happy to download music. We've chosen to support the industries that we feel some kind of connection with.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 42 posts Report Reply

  • Morgan Nichol,

    Sometimes you need to watch Total Wipeout on BBC iPlayer and when you need that you need it now.

    (And then you'll learn that the UK version of Total Wipeout is 59 minutes long, compared with the 24 minute US version. And yet they do all the same sort of challenges. Which means way, way more time talking to the completely insane contestants. THEY'RE SO AWKWARD.)

    Auckland CBD • Since Nov 2006 • 292 posts Report Reply

  • Dan Salmon,

    What is the legal situation for the pre-existing blocking services?

    Auckland • Since Mar 2011 • 13 posts Report Reply

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