NY Times Buys Bogus Movie Industry Complaints About Piracy

from the let's-get-real... dept

The NY Times is running an article entitled "Digital Pirates Winning Battle With Studios." From the title, it's pretty obvious what it's about -- but the article seems to take a lot of talking points from the movie studios. It's not hard to figure out the main source of the article: NBC Universal's Rick Cotton is quoted throughout. Cotton is a lawyer who has proven time and time again that he's a bit clueless when it comes to business. It's unclear why NBC keeps having him comment publicly about business issues. Every time he does, it just gives people more reason to realize how poorly NBC Universal is managed. Cotton was the guy who proudly talked about how NBC made it more difficult for people to watch the Olympics. He's also the guy who (with a straight face, we believe) claimed that the US gov't should shift Justice Department money from stopping real crimes to focus on copyright infringement because (no, really) doing so would help poor corn farmers who went out of business because people weren't buying movie theater popcorn anymore. Apparently people who watch movies at home don't eat popcorn (and apparently, he forgot to check and discover that corn farmers have been doing quite well lately).

How he has any credibility on these issues is beyond me.

But, the NY Times reports, without a hint of skepticism, about the fact that The Dark Knight was so widely available online, representing a huge failure for the industry. You know which important part the reporters left out? That it was also the highest earning movie of the year. In other words, piracy is not the problem. People are plenty willing to pay to go to the movie theater if you give them a good reason to do so. In fact, The Dark Knight did a good job of that, offering special IMAX showings that you absolutely couldn't recreate on your computer screen or big screen TV.

Did the NY Times point this out? Nope, it said that the downloads were "a visible symbol of Hollywood's helplessness against the growing problem of online video piracy." No. That's not true at all. It was actually a visible symbol of the fact that the existence of free downloads is not the problem so long as the industry actually makes an effort to give people a good reason to pay.

Then, the reporters note that "each episode of "Heroes," a series on NBC, is downloaded five million times, representing a substantial loss for the network." Substantial loss? Really? Can they actually back up that statement? The people who are watching this show are fans of the show who want to consume the product from NBC. Downloading the show is a way for them to stay engaged -- making them more likely to later watch the show on TV (with commercials) or on sites like Hulu. It makes them more likely to go out and buy a DVD later. Or to engage in any of probably 1000 business models that could create compelling tie-ins with the show. Those business models aren't difficult to come up with, and we'd be more than willing to help, if NBC Universal just gives us a call. Nor does the NY Times mention that one of the big reasons why Heroes is downloaded so frequently is because NBC's braindead decision to not let Hulu be watched outside the US. Only an entertainment industry lawyer could think that having more people want to watch your show represents a "loss."

It's an opportunity.

It's really sad that the entertainment industry keeps trusting execs who view such opportunities as threats, and that the media takes their word for it.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Buzz, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 12:12pm

    hehehe

    Maybe if pirates went and actually stole that guy's car, he'd have a better understanding of "theft" and "loss".

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 12:32pm

    NBC Online

    I p2p Heroes, and a few other shows simply because NBC, in their superior intellect, have decided that the streaming episodes from their site should be a US only medium... CBS does the same thing, and it truly pisses me off to no end. My cable includes NBC/CBS/Fox etc... but try to access any of their content via the web, and apparently if you're not 'inside' the US, you must not legally be allowed to watch. At least Discovery Channel allows streaming - which I watch, commercials and all, if I happen to miss an episode.

    Empty suits...

     

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    PaulT (profile), Feb 5th, 2009 @ 12:33pm

    "each episode of "Heroes," a series on NBC, is downloaded five million times, representing a substantial loss for the network."

    Which network? Most figures on piracy tend to be global. Some markets have to wait 6 months to a year (or more) for the new series of Heroes, let alone less domestically successful shows. People in those markets hate not being able to participate in the latest discussions on the show (nothing like finding out major late-season plot twists before the show even starts in your area), so they preview what's happening.

    "one of the big reasons why Heroes is downloaded so frequently is because NBC's braindead decision to not let Hulu be watched outside the US"

    Exactly. The internet is *global* and universal. Attempting to restrict access based on which patch of dirt you happen to be sitting on is an outdated and damaging model. There are many ways to get paid for allowing access outside of the US, but they cannot be based on the old way of doing things.

     

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    Dan, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 12:37pm

    I frequently watch Heroes and Chuck on Hulu, precisely because I can't watch them on Monday nights (late classes). I would be downloading too if I had to. NBC needs to smarten up about who can stream their content.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 1:11pm

      Re:

      Hulu is awesome. It's convenient and it eliminates my need for a DVR. Now NBC gets commercial revenue when I watch Chuck and Heroes. If the Roku box would pick it up, we'd all win.

      Why they block it outside the US, but simultaneously advertise it with a $3 million spot during the superbowl puzzles me? Braindead is appropriate.

       

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        Sandy, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 1:46pm

        Re: Re:

        I know that there are ISP blocking sites which allow access to sites that geographically limit access, but I haven't tried them yet. Hulu was one of the sites I was planning on trying this with.

         

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    O'Reilly, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 12:47pm

    At Least The Times Is Consistent

    The NYT is considered to be the left's daily manifesto, slamming and defaming anything and anyone that disagrees with them. The publisher, Pinch Sulzberger (is that trust-funder name or what?)is a brain-dead hippie from the 60's who's hell bent for leather to destroy his family's business.

    I personally can't wait for the day the presses stop rolling at the Times because that'll reduce the carbon footprint, slow down the illusion of global warming and save millions of trees. Of course, my dog will have to find something else to poop on, but maybe the Boston Globe or the Washington Post will publish for a few more months.

    It'll be a happy day when they go down in flames. F**k you, Pinch.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 12:48pm

    "Digital Pirates Winning Battle With Studios."

    Pirates are winning and studios are being forced to change they models.

    I think the title is apt (as long they don't demonize one side)

     

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    Ima Fish, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 12:50pm

    "NY Times Buys Bogus Movie Industry Complaints About Piracy"

    It appears that the movies was doing the buying here.

     

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    Sabrent, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 1:08pm

    I'm considering disconnecting my cable because...

    1) There is too little on to be able to watch two hours a day of entertainment excluding news.

    2) What is available to watch is of inconsistent quality and I end up feeling my time has been wasted.

    3) What is entertaining is shallow. Battlestar Galactica had a great opportunity to reveal why Cylons felt God gave them souls and completely dropped the ball. A mini mystery thread woven into the plot was just too much work I'm guessing.

    4) Out of 52 weeks of the year new programming is on for only 12-16 and the rest filled with reruns of the previous season. Could my cable company just charge me for 16 weeks?

    The answer to all of these is online viewing and on-demand download:
    - Customers want to watch when they want to watch- when they can make time.
    - They want to watch a three hour movie over 5 days perhaps and watch it again instantly when ever they would like to.
    - Customers want to watch on their laptop or on a TV attached to a playback device.
    - Studios and producers get instant metrics. No sales the product is a bomb. More sales the product is a hit. Perhaps studios and producers are afraid of this.
    - Smaller studios can compete and make money even with smaller niche audiences.
    - Finally perhaps the government can subsidize the production of a few intellectual and entertaining shows. When I was young I was motivated to become a engineer by campy BBC science fiction shows. Isn't some of BBC's programming subsidized?

    I think I'm gonna call Comcast right now...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 1:10pm

    "That it was also the highest earning movie of the year."

    Has the possibility been considered that without unauthorized downloading the movie might have earned even more, or is it satisfactory to say "they have earned enough"?

     

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      Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased), Feb 5th, 2009 @ 1:32pm

      Re:

      To re-word your question:

      Has the possibility been considered that without unauthorized downloading the movie might have earned even less, or is it satisfactory to say "they have earned too much"?

      Again, was there truly any lost sales?

       

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      Mike (profile), Feb 5th, 2009 @ 2:02pm

      Re:

      Has the possibility been considered that without unauthorized downloading the movie might have earned even more, or is it satisfactory to say "they have earned enough"?

      You could equally suggest credibly that without unauthorized downloading the movie would have earned *less*.

      But the point is not about that they have "earned enough". I never said that at all. The point is that people are willing to pay EVEN THOUGH it's being pirated. That proves that this is a business model issue, not a legal issue. All the movie studios need to do is focus on giving users a reason to buy and stop worrying about "piracy."

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 3:45pm

        Re: Re:

        You could equally suggest credibly that without unauthorized downloading the movie would have earned *less*.

        True, but it is a point that cannot be proven one way or the other and over which reasonable minds can differ.

         

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          Mike (profile), Feb 5th, 2009 @ 6:31pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          True, but it is a point that cannot be proven one way or the other and over which reasonable minds can differ.

          Actually, almost every non-industry paid-for study has shown that increased file sharing tends to correlate with increased sales. But, you know... facts.

          So, no, I don't think "reasonable minds" can differ if they've read the evidence. But, more to the point, the article didn't even mention this possibility. It flat out took the word of the industry lawyers who said it represented a substantial loss.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 6:45pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Actually, almost every non-industry paid-for study has shown that increased file sharing tends to correlate with increased sales. But, you know... facts.

            I am not aware of any such study. Is there a link to one?

             

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      Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 3:41pm

      Re: Not Earning Enough

      Has the possibility been considered that without unauthorized downloading the movie might have earned even more, or is it satisfactory to say "they have earned enough"?

      Don’t I wish I had the luxury, in my life, to be able to say that, as much as I’m earning, it’s not enough, I’m entitled to more?

      That’s that happens when you’re an adult: you have to get what you can out of life, you can’t go running to Mummy or Daddy to complain that what you’re getting isn’t good enough, you’ve got to have more.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 3:59pm

      Re:

      Has the possibility been considered that without unauthorized downloading the movie might have earned even more, or is it satisfactory to say "they have earned enough"?

      Huh? Did you even read the linked article? That's just what the industry is going around in the press trying to convince people of. So what are you, some kind of shill going around trying to cover that up? That's the only real explanation I can see for a question such as yours.

      Has it been considered. Get real. Hell, that's all they want to be considered.

       

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 1:25pm

    Is there anyway to send a copy of this post to the reporters? Probably wouldn't do any good, but maybe, just maybe.....

     

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    Sandy, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 1:43pm

    I was wondering when this would end up here.

    Mark Ishikawa, BayTSP’s founder and chief executive, sees a correlation between the availability of content through traditional legal channels and their popularity on pirate networks.

    “When DVD releases are postponed, demand always goes up, because people don’t have an authorized channel to buy,” he said.>>

    This short blurb was buried at the very end of the article, probably to appease those who made it all the way through. I don't personally download films or series, as I'm a bit slow when it comes to this kind of thing, but I have a couple of colleagues who do so I get them to burn copies of stuff for me. I live in Europe but read international sites so by the time I can legally get a copy of something it's six months after I start reading about it. Thing is, I have plenty of disposable income and check out the new video releases pretty much every weekend. If I could get the videos in the stores when I wanted them I would happily buy most of them. On Blu-ray even.

    I've thought that the ideal schedule would be release the films with no more than a two week delay in other countries and have a worldwide DVD release within about 3 weeks of the cinema release. This would give the studios a few weeks to make their money on public showings and appease the home viewers as well. It would increase the revenues of the studios and negate any possible negative affects that the illegal versions would have. I'd venture to guess that many who would download are those who wouldn't likely pay for the product in the first place, so it would make little difference.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 3:02pm

    If a show such as the example here, "Heroes", can be watched for free from multiple sources: Broadcast TV, streamed from NBC's website, streamed from Hulu etc... How is it piracy to download that same show from something like bittorrent or limewire? If its free to start with, you can't "steal" it.

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Hulser, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 4:07pm

      Re:

      Well, here's the irony. In most cases, the RIAA/MPAA try to define illegally downloading a file as "stealing" or "theft" when in fact it's actually copyright infringement. Note that this is saying nothing about the morality of the action itself, just the proper definition. But if you use this definition, you open yourself up to contradictions as demonstrated by your question i.e. how can it be stealing if you're giving it away? To answer that question, they have to revert back to illegal downloads being copyright infringement. "Well, it's because we get to control exactly how and where the media can be viewed." Essentially, they want their cake and to eat it too.

       

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 4:12pm

    Bedfellows

    Let's see. Big newspaper that sees the internet as mortal threat and one of their best advertising customers that also sees the internet as a mortal threat, the movie industry, team up to spread a load of BS and propaganda? The NY Times isn't buying anything, they're colluding.

    You know, one of a newspapers most valuable assets is its reputation and this kind of behavior just further lowers the NY Times' (as if they could get much lower consider some of the stunts that have been pulled there in recent years). I want accurate, unbiased information. If I wanted a load of crap I wouldn't have to buy some subscription to get it. Way to go NY Times in your attempts to make yourself even more irrelevant in the future. When you finally close your doors for good, I'll say "goodbye and good riddance."

     

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    Steve R. (profile), Feb 5th, 2009 @ 5:21pm

    Netflix and DVD Sales

    I read that Times article early this morning. The Times has a habit of releasing industry "press releases" as news. I thought they were getting better.
    --------------------------------------------------------
    Now for the breaking news, Jim Crammer's video on Netflix and its impact on DVD sales has finally been posted.

    NFLX: The Reel Deal?

    The take away from this video, is that the word "piracy" is NOT even mentioned. Crammer says that the consumer's ownership of DVDs is "saturated" and that Netflix offers a cheaper alternative to buying. Also Crammer says that streaming video will be the new business model for distributing content. Enjoy the video.

     

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    Sean Larabee, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 5:45pm

    Taken

    Apparently the NYT also missed the fact that Taken was #1 at the box office last weekend despite the fact that it has been available in torrents and widely downloaded for the last month at least.

     

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    Fred von Lohmann, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 6:54pm

    what about profits?

    Good article. One thing that frustrates me about many of the "piracy killing entertainment" stories is that the reporters fail to gather the facts about the revenues and profits of the companies supposedly being harmed. When last I checked, all the major movie studios have had consistently strong profits (subtracting one time charges and such) for all of the post-Napster years. Box office numbers continued to be strong right up until the economy tanked. In other words, I wish reporters would get the financial facts, put them into a chart, and measure those against the "woe is us" anecdotes.

     

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    bowerbird, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 9:07pm

    i've never downloaded a movie in my life.

    but if the m.p.a.a. keeps planting bullshit like this,
    and supposedly reputable papers like the n.y. times
    keep printing it, i'm going to make it a point to start.

    -bowerbird

     

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    Susan Blacker, Feb 5th, 2009 @ 10:59pm

    who's winning the battle ?

    when you look at free movie site listings of just how many sites are out there on the net today, once can see that just about everyday a new site opens as another closes, the battle is decided by the audience the sites continually get.
    here's a site with the full list of over 656 sites as of today http://www.nosubscriptionrequired.net/

     

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      ToySouljah, Feb 6th, 2009 @ 2:13am

      Re: who's winning the battle ?

      [adolescent moment]
      lmao...."No Subscription Required is host site to FTW..." (okay okay...it means "free to watch")
      [/adolescent moment]

       

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    Shinyhunter, Feb 6th, 2009 @ 3:42am

    Who's making record profits?

    So this year is the strongest year on record for movie revenue, edging out...can you guess? Last Year! The Movie industry is doing better and better and better each year, and all the NY Times had to do was contact any member of the industry and ask them for their numbers for the year and they would have realized how bogus this is.

     

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    Francis Turner, Feb 6th, 2009 @ 4:35am

    unauthorized viral marketing

    As I wrote at my blog, I think a better name for "piracy" might be "unauthorized viral marketing"

     

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    Twinrova, Feb 6th, 2009 @ 4:39am

    Okay, it's time to get more verbose.

    Mike,
    I'm beginning to think you have a personal grudge against the New York Times. As a reader of Techdirt, the last thing I should expect is to read news from this crap of a newspaper, but recently, these types of "attacks" against the NYT is on the increase.

    I would like to know why. Readers of Techdirt will know the NYT is a terrible news source filled with biased opinions on topics they know nothing about. More importantly, I don't believe you'll persuade those who treat NYT news as gospel to open their eyes, especially from an "unknown website" (despite the credentials) trying to convince them otherwise.

    So, please, drop this crap of refuting everything the NYT spews. It's taking away from other resources and doing nothing more than advertising for the NYT.

    Thank you.

     

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    bshock, Feb 6th, 2009 @ 8:50am

    if only...

    I wish I could grant the studios' wish about fighting "piracy." I wish I were smart enough to create perfect DRM (or possibly magical enough, since this seems to be a logical impossibility) that locked down studio content to just those individuals who paid.

    File-sharing spreads studio crap and supports studios. Giving them the restriction system they want would destroy them.

    Any ideas on how to get these moths to their beloved flame?

     

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    identicon
    Gene Cavanaugh, Feb 6th, 2009 @ 10:24am

    Piracy in the media

    Right on, Michael! It seems to be typical of the "knee-jerk" reaction to anything new in that industry.

     

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