The Cable Cutter movement had a beautiful run with a broad catalog of content available at a simple, digestible price. Unfortunately, that’s changing. With the growing marketplace of network subscriptions leading to more exclusive licensing, TV is becoming harder to watch. Consumers are finding themselves in an endless game of musical chairs — or musical subs.
The mess that was traditional cable has found its way to new media.
The result of content being spread thinner across multiple platforms will inconvenience and increase the consumer’s cost. The opposite effect a service should have.
As Disney’s The Mandalorian comes to an end, my monthly subscription is getting redirected to Amazon Prime for the latest season of The Expanse. With The Office leaving Netflix for NBC’s Peacock, I will find an alternative way to watch The Office and find something new on Netflix (like Brooklyn 99).
Fortunately, there’s an equalizer to the inconvenience and increased cost of services. It’s called competition, and in online media, one of the biggest competitors is piracy. On paper, companies can’t compete with online piracy. Despite being illegal, pirated copies of media are widely available online. They pose a significant threat to legitimate means of consumption.
The music industry is a perfect example of what happens when consumers have a reliable, convenient, and affordable offering. Services like Spotify and Apple Music have been so successful that the idea of having individual MP3’s stored locally on your device feels antiquated.
Taylor Swift withheld her music from being available on streaming services until 2017. In the lead up to her album Reputation, Swift finally added her back catalog to Spotify and Apple Music — with a caveat. The upcoming album would not be available on the services for at least one week. Without availability through convenient streaming platforms, Taylor Swift’s Reputation was one of the most pirated albums of the year.
It turns out when a legal, convenient, and affordable alternative is available — most people will choose it.
HBO will release Wonder Woman 1984 on Christmas Day through their streaming service, HBO Max, simultaneously with the theatrical release. The film comes after a year of content drought due to the ongoing pandemic. Unfortunately, most countries are under some form of restrictions resulting in limited theatre attendance. With HBO Max region restricting Wonder Woman 1984 to the USA, I have a not-so-bold prediction.
Wonder Woman 1984 will be the most pirated movie — probably ever.
It won’t be the first time HBO has seen a massive uptick in piracy of their content. In 2016, during the sixth season of Game of Thrones, Australians did not have a reasonable way to watch the series. The only cable provider offering HBO was Foxtel. Subscribing to HBO through Foxtel for the 3-month duration of a season — would cost the equivalent of 70 US Dollars. It was no surprise when week after week, Australians consistently lead the charge for Game of Thrones piracy.
History has a funny way of repeating itself. Being forced to manage subscriptions and dealing with region-restricted content makes TV harder to watch — effectively moving traditional cable to a modern platform. Fortunately, the networks have steep competition. Until the FCC makes the internet a consumerist hellhole — piracy is here to stay.
Disclaimer: I’m not advocating piracy — just observing the effect it has on media consumption and legal offerings.