There is evidence to suggest that the wave of new music streaming services are directly influencing the number of illegal music downloads. With that in mind, shouldn’t the TV and movie industries be taking action to ensure viewers have options in place such as free TV streaming?
The music, television, movie, gaming, and software industries pretty much see illegal file-sharing and peer-to-peer networks as the devil’s own work. Those who download these media files are the devil’s spawn, while those who make the files available to others are akin to Beelzebub himself. Which is understandable seeing as these activities do undermine each of the industries mentioned.
However, what those same industries and the content owners who operate in them need to realize is that most people only partake in illegal file-sharing due to a lack of other options. Give consumers what they want, which is affordable access to the content they desire, and the problem of illegal file-sharing goes away.
Free Music Streaming
A recent survey of 1,000 teenagers by MusicAlly revealed that the number of youngsters illegally downloading music over the Internet has dropped substantially over the last two years. It’s not the teenagers are listening to less music, it’s just that instead of turning to file-sharing networks first they are now streaming tracks and albums from services such as Spotify, Last.fm, and We7.
These services mainly operate with a free, ad-supported business model, sometimes with a premium paid option also present which gives those willing to subscribe additional benefits. Consumers are happy because they have immediate access to the music they like, the record labels and artists are happy because they are getting paid, and the middle men are happy because they have a legal business out of the deal.
Free TV Streaming
Obviously, the television industry is slowly starting to embrace services which work in a similar way. In the U.K., the BBC has the iPlayer, Channel 4 has recently opened up its archives with 4oD, and there’s the ITV Player. While in the States, Hulu continues to build an audience by offering premium shows streaming online for free. Even Hollywood is getting involved with Epix and the like.
However, in the same way that the music streaming service are being controlled by overzealous content owners, so are Hulu and the like, with restrictions being placed on content at every turn. Then there is the obvious problem of territorial rights licensing which means people in the UK can’t watch Hulu and people in America can’t watch the iPlayer.
A Business Model That Works!
Now just imagine a Spotify/Last.fm inspired TV streaming service! Consumers would eat it up and it would be a far more powerful weapon against piracy than futile DRM. To top it off the service could also embrace user-targeted advertising and less intrusive (but engaging & effective) internet ads as a highly effective monetization model.
A service like Last.fm doesn’t give an on-demand service but allows users to skip and ban tracks, and generally presents them with music they will like – put simply it’s personalized radio. A TV service working in the same way would give users the TV they wanted and introduce them to new TV shows they’ll probably like while not giving away a whole series. This would encourage DVD sales, rentals etc. and introduce audiences to new shows.
Ultimately this is a business model that could work.
The television and movie industries could severely cut the use of file-sharing networks for illegal downloads by embracing streaming services in a big way. If the correct strategy was put in place then content could be made available without harming the content owners bottom line. In fact, the right free TV streaming strategy could help promote shows and increase viewer numbers and DVD sales.