Web TV On Knife Edge | The Harder Networks Push, The More Popular Piracy Will Become

1 min read

Just when it seemed content providers such as the big American networks were finally getting it, the last few weeks have seen things take a turn for the worse for Web television. The problem is: the harder the networks push, the more popular piracy will become.

I’ve been writing on WebTVWire for quite some time now, and in that period I’ve seen content providers go from hating the very idea of online video to finally starting to embrace it. The American networks, in particular, seemed to have realized that the Web offered a new opportunity to exploit rather than a crack to fill.

Networks Pushing Hard

In February alone, we’ve already seen a few examples of content providers pushing against online television. First, ABC indicated it wanted to double the advertising it served on programming on ABC.com. This is supposedly after a survey indicated most people would be happy to see this happen.

Then fans of The Mentalist, 11th Hour, and The Big Bang Theory noticed their favorites shows had disappeared from CBS.com. It seems that Warner Brothers Television rather than CBS was to blame, but there still hasn’t really been any explanation for the action.

Hulu Annoying Patrons

The last few days have seen two incidents harm Hulu, rightly seen as the epitome of a network effort to embrace online video. First, Hulu pulled all its video from TV.com, with the most likely explanation being that it feels the site is competition. Then even worse, Hulu stopped Boxee from syndicating its content.

The latter event looks to have been down to pressure exerted by the cable companies onto the television networks. Just a day later, plans by the cable companies to themselves enter the world of online video emerged. Coincidence? I hardly think so.

Increasing The Popularity Of Piracy

As Janko Roettgers over at NewTeeVee points out, these incidents and others like it are only likely to lead to one thing: the growth of piracy. People now want television delivered on demand and on their terms. If the networks won’t give them the option to do it legally, they are only going to turn to illegal means instead.

Viewers don’t mind some adverts with their online video but too much and they’re likely to object. They also don’t want to have to visit multiple sites to view content, so allow software such as Boxee which puts the content in one place. If the networks and content providers push too hard and ask the viewers to compromise too much, piracy will continue to grow exponentially.

It’s a stark choice but it’s one that has to be made.