In some ways, this is the argument that never ends. Over the weekend, American director David Petrarca stated that he wasn't fussed about people pirating Games Of Thrones, because it creates a "cultural buzz" around the product. I'm not entirely convinced.
Despite the onset of alternative entertainment avenues that often get column inches such as simple Internet browsing and video games, Australia remains a nation of couch potatoes. The latest OZTAM multi-screen report suggest that Australians watch an average of over 91 hours of TV every single month, and that's a figure that hasn't changed in the past ten years. We love our tellies, in other words, but TV is a hungry creature. You can only watch repeats of MASH so many times before you've committed them all to memory, so new material is a bit of a must.
If you believe the piracy figures — and given they're reporting on illicit activity and everyone reporting them has one spin or another they'd favour — we're also a nation of pirates, with HBO's Game Of Thrones being a particular favourite. Just to whet your appetite, have a trailer for the next season, as yet unaired and therefore not yet on the wide pirate seas.
David Petrarca has directed episodes of Game Of Thrones, and over the weekend he appeared at the Perth Writer's Festival. The Sydney Morning Herald reports when asked about Game Of Thrones being the most pirated show of 2012
Petrarca shrugged and said the illegal downloads did not matter because such shows thrived on "cultural buzz" and capitalised on the social commentary they generated. "That's how they survive."
I get what he means to a certain extent, because it's a variant on the "piracy is advertising" argument in one form, and in the specific case of Game Of Thrones the fact that so many of my friends and colleagues were endlessly raving about it led me to seek it out — although in my case, it was via renting the DVD box set from my local video store and gorging on it rather than downloading the episodes illegally.
HBO's also in a rather interesting position when it comes to piracy, because it's a premium US cable channel with a rather large income stream, which means the sting of piracy isn't quite so cumbersome to it. Still, I'm sure that Petrarca's HBO bosses don't quite share his viewpoint. Or, as ex-Epic Games developer Cliff Bleszinski put it on Twitter this morning:
As an HBO subscriber here's a shout out to everyone who pirates Game of Thrones. Glad I can fund it for you. ;P
Therein lies the problem. Development of a premium TV series that doesn't look like it was shot on stock made out of clingfilm (mental note: experiment to see if that's feasible; a fortune could be mine!) costs real money, and somebody, somewhere has to be willing to pay for it. I'm not entirely neutral on this, given that I work in a creative capacity, but I'm also all too well aware that it's a problem that often revolves around the same arguments of access and price, something that I've argued at length elsewhere.
So, here's the challenge. Let's say for the sake of argument that piracy is just advertising. How do you fund premium TV programs sufficiently, or is it just an issue of "I don't care as long as somebody else pays?"
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