Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Why Pay When it's Always Been Free.

Broadcast   - verb -  To transmit (a radio or television program) for public or general use.

As many of you know, ABC is selling Desperate Housewives and Lost on the iTunes store for fans to download and watch.   According to this article by the Associated Press, CBS and NBC are jumping on the Bandwagon also.  

CBS and NBC aren't going the iTunes route, instead NBC has struck a deal with DirectTV to offer re-runs of popular shows like CSI and  LAW & Order SVU demand for $0.99 each.  However to view these, subscribers will need to purchase a DVR (Digital Video Recording box) which will be available in a week.   CBS  has a deal with Comcast's digital cable service.   These re-runs are said to still have advertisements, but users will be able to "zap" through them with a remote.  These services start next year.

Either I'm stupid, or this is completely backwards.

I think this is a classic case of greedy corporate entities inventing a market where this isn't, or shouldn't be one.  For 50 years, Broadcast television was FREE.  Well, not really free, we paid for the service by subjecting ourselves to the brainwashing of advertisements.  The advertisements paid the bills at the TV station. (Now, remember, I'm not talking premium channels here, I'm talking broadcast TV like UHF and VHF).  Broadcast Television was sent over the airwaves to be received with a television tuner and antenna.   Then came cable.  All of a sudden people were willing to dump $20+ dollars per month, for theses same broadcast channels only they were delivered on a cable, yielding a better quality, if your antenna wasn't up to snuff. (as a kid, we received FOX on antenna only on nice days, but we could have paid for it on cable)  How about those adverts?  Did they go away?  Nope,! in fact some may argue that they're worse now than ever before, with product placements on TV shows etc. to boot.  So now you're paying for what's free. (I'm omitting the timeline with the addition of Premium channels etc. as it's not relevant for my rant.) Take a few minutes, and let me explain the timeline and my view on things.  Once done, leave a comment and tell me....Am I stupid or is this completely Backwards?

Enter the VCR

If you're like me, you probably enjoy a couple shows a week.  Shows you pay to receive, even though you could have gotten them free on an antenna.  So the show you like is on tonight, but you've got prior engagements and can't watch.  You used to (or do) slide the $2.99 reuse-able VHS tape into the VCR, set the timer and watch it later.   Then the war started between the commercial advancing VCRs and Embedded commercials that fool the commercial detection.  No biggie.  Grab the remove and "zap" through the commercials, none the less, although you pay for the service they still shove ads down your throats.  Imagine if every time you received a phone call, you heard, "this phone call was brought to you by Ford, Try out the new Explorer at your local dealer today.  You may now start your conversation".  You'd be outraged because you pay for the phone service. (now! imagine if an hour conversation had 18 minutes of that!  I don't see this as any different, it's wrong!

Digital Revolution
Y2K was the turning point where High speed Internet and file sharing came into the main stream.   Savvy people had already been recording shows on their computers using video capture cards like the ATI All-in-Wonder for a couple years.  Now you could record your show watch it when you wanted, and even have the flexibility to watch it on your computer, or on any device that played Video CDs, but you still paid over $200 annually for those broadcast channels you can get for free.  Digital cable and satellite come into play offering higher quality than ever before (useless channels and a higher price too).   People are now recording at higher than VCR quality, and having the recording be completely portable, thanks to high speed internet and hand held devices, but really, you're doing the same thing you were doing years ago, only you were using different equipment to do it.  

One day, you're VCR,DVR,Computer, DVD Recorder, or whatever didn't record the show you wanted to see, tape full, power failure, whatever it doesn't matter.  The next day at work, you ask, "Who taped BillyBobsHardwareShow last night, and can I borrow the tape?" and you got the tape from a friends.  One day, nobody taped it, but one guy says, I missed it too, but found it on the internet.  Just download it.  So, you do.  Some call it pirating.  Why should it be pirating, if this show is already delivered over the Radio ways FOR FREE, after all as Einstein says, time is relative.  Or on the other side of the coin, you already paid to watch the show as pay for that channel on your cable.

Broadcast, Flipped Crushed and Chewed

But this will all change next see, in several places including the USA and UK, "Broadcasting", according to the definition above, will be shut off.   There's plenty of politics behind this.  You see, broadcast waves are a low frequency, (VHF 54-88Mhz) which makes them desirable for long range, high power output transmissions.  CBC Winnipeg transmits with a video power of 100,000 watts and audio power of 20,000 watts over 87.7Mhz I believe.  Once reclaimed, the government can reallocate these frequencies for other uses and cha-ching.  Broadcast TV will be gone, and the only way to receive Television will be to pay for it.  What's been Free for decades, let me say that again, DECADES, will now only be available if you pay.  Furthermore, the broadcast flag, if successfully lobbied in the US legal/political system will prevent you from recording certain shows, IMHO to increase T! V show season DVD sales.  

All the assumptions

So....  Now you're paying for your shows.  You're paying for the content to be delivered into your home, every last bit of it.  You're even paying for the commercials....  But is there a legal restriction of what you can do once it's in your home?  Granted you may not re-distribute, but, lets say you had the money and the desire to put a 5 minute delay loop into the TV in your house so you could filter the "wardrobe malfunctions" in between the time you see it, and when it gets delivered to you child's TV downstairs, would this be legal?  Now, if you can delay 5 minutes, why not delay 3 days?   I've read the policy from my cable provider and it makes no reference to this, so I assume there's no legal issue.  So, does that mean it's fully legal for me to delay content?  Well.  I've just re-worded what we've all been doing for years, videotaping shows.  We've come full ! circle.

It all boils down to this (yup, I'm almost done)

1. We know that you're already paying for TV. (once the broadcasts are gone) everyone who has a TV signal, is paying monthly for TV.
2. We assume that you can record, for later use, your TV shows
3. Never, ever have I nor anyone I know been arrested, charged etc. for taping a show and/or lending said recording to a friend to catch up.
4. Any TV show that was on the cable transmission, which I paid for, technically I should be licensed to watch.
        - So it's nobody's business but my own how I recorded it or how I watched it.
                  - If I missed recording said show, and I have 5,000,000 friends online that recorded the show, downloading it is merely, borrowing their recording.

Now, when I've established that 1. TV is free, even though we pay for it, and 2. that we already pay for the TV show, WHY ON GOD'S EARTH would anybody pay TWICE for the exact same thing?  The corporations are gouging you, and you're taking the bait.  Why would you pay a single penny for something you've already paid for?   Seriously..... am I stupid, or is this completely backwards?  Somebody give me my sanity back.


gfroese said...

I have zero issues with downloading television shows to watch later, in fact, that is the only way I watch Alias (the only show I remotely follow). I can't get to the TV when it is on, and my VCR doesn't work, so I download it and watch it at my convenience.

And that what this gouging is all about. Convenience. It is much more convenient for most people to pay the one or two bucks to get a show from a very reliable source, than to hunt around the net for a torrent file and hope it comes in. Multiply that convenience factor by 100 times for people who are not technically inclined.

And it makes sense from a business perspective as it obviously costs the network money to make shows available for download, and they decided to recoup the money directly for the service of offering these downloads. This keeps the money flowing in and out from the same business line. There is no thought of using the financial resources from other channels of business to fund something like this.

After all that, I'd still never pay to use a service like that, but I would more than gladly suffer through an ad or two to get the service for free.

Brad said...

Torrent, torrent, torrent! I love you, torrents! I'm done overpaying for crappy product.