Adult Swim, Cartoon Network Piss Off Fans By Removing Free iPad Streams; Now Only For Cable Subscribers

from the that's-not-helping dept

It’s amazing how frequently legacy entertainment industry companies look to screw up a good thing. Cartoon Network and its alter ego Adult Swim launched iOS apps in the last year that received a ton of praise for offering full streams of shows in their free apps. This made them useful apps for plenty of fans of cartoons (and, really, who isn’t a fan of cartoons?). But, it appears things have changed. A practicing intellectual property lawyer, who prefers to remain anonymous (he apparently doesn’t want the world to know of his cartoon obsession), alerted us to the news that the two apps have now removed the free streams. The deal is you can now only get free streams if you subscribe to a partner cable/satellite provider. In fact, they’re even pitching it as if they’re doing something new — totally ignoring that the free streams used to be available for everyone, and now are limited to just people who have cable/satellite subscriptions.

Yes, this is weak attempt by everyone to try to hold back the flood of people cutting the cord — but it’s the absolute wrong way to go about it. Rather than providing more value, they’re trying to take away value from others, and in the process pissing off a lot of people. It’s not going to make cord cutters any more interested in re-subscribing to cable or satellite TV, but may make the Cartoon Network and Adult Swim lose some of its most valuable audience — the young, employed, well-educated folks that advertisers crave… who have been leading the charge in cutting the cord. Here’s what the attorney wrote to me:

I do not have cable. and, just to make it clear, I am a late 20-something, practicing intellectual property attorney, and I cut my cable not because the economy is bad, but because it is an outrageously overpriced, single direction service that forces me to choke down a ton of content I do not care about, in addition to forcing me to watch ads.

I was happy to watch my favorite cartoons, for free, but with ads, ostensibly, the profits of which go directly to the stations with less dilution than if they had been broadcast, but now I will probably go back to doing what I did before my iPad: not watch stuff, wait for it to come out on DVD and Netflix/Qwikster it, or, potentially, even ‘infringe’ it.

The way to compete in this market is to add value, not take it away. That just pisses people off.

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Comments on “Adult Swim, Cartoon Network Piss Off Fans By Removing Free iPad Streams; Now Only For Cable Subscribers”

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Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I take it you’re referring to the cost of streaming to an extra 5%? You must be since they’re still hosting the videos and still streaming them to most people (most people still have cable), so the fixed costs are still there. I don’t know, does the extra money saved by not streaming to those 5% make up for the losses in advertisements?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Actually it looks more like Time Warner is willing to take a loss on Cartoon Network revenue in the hopes that it will result in a net gain across all of their other revenue streams. Basically it looks like this is exactly the reason service providers should not also control content since they’re leveraging the content to prop up their service at the expensive of consumers.

Anonymous Coward says:

When a a “late 20-something, practicing intellectual property attorney” says “I will probably go back to doing what I did before my iPad: not watch stuff, wait for it to come out on DVD and Netflix/Qwikster it, or, potentially, even ‘infringe’ it.”, you know the system is broken!

And this is a guy who’s supposed to be preventing others from “infringing”!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

And this is a guy who’s supposed to be preventing others from “infringing”!

Says who? He’s an IP lawyer, not an IP cop. He’s supposed to represent his client’s best interests. This may or may not involve preventing others from infringing (or, indeed, any work related to infringement at all).

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I can’t speak for the entire lineup, but Adult Swim has been home to some of the most brilliant cartoons ever made. I don’t think you’d find many junior highschoolers who enjoy (or can follow the plot of, or get half the references in) the Venture Brothers. Shows like Superjail! are made for serious, avid followers of the art of animation above all else. Shows like Aqua Teen are – well, that show is pretty fucking weird, and I don’t blame anyone for being offput by it, but it pushes the boundaries of television writing like crazy and it features some of the best voice performances this side of Futurama.

Don’t hate on Adult Swim! It aint for everyone, but it’s a hell of a lot more than “laughing about anatomy or whatever”

Anonymous Coward says:

A big part of the problem with cable is indeed that you have to pay for hundreds of other channels that you’ll never watch. Whenever I hear commercials brag about having tons of channels it makes me less likely to buy cable from them, if I ever feel like buying overpriced cable to begin with.

What’s really messed up is that successful cable channels, often with no more then 5 million viewers at any one time, make MORE money then the free broadcast channels like CBS/ABC/NBC/Fox, etc. They earn more money because unlike the broadcast channels they get paid regardless of if you watch them or not.

In political terms, that basically means if you pay for cable you’re subsidizing the hundreds of channels you never watch.

There was an article a year ago that said that one of the big 4 broadcast channels (I think it implied it was Fox, though it didn’t say it directly) was even considering switching to cable to earn MORE money despite the fact that their ratings would probably plummet like 75% or more for their most popular shows that earn them the most money now.

Prashanth (profile) says:

And how?

It’s all good and fine, but how do you propose that Cartoon Network add value to the free streaming content? I’m not try to be snide; I’m sincerely asking, because I don’t think that the discussion of TV show doings on TechDirt has ever gotten beyond the abstract phrase “adding value”, as opposed to music and movies where there are concrete examples of CwF + RtB.

Karl (profile) says:

Re: And how?

It’s all good and fine, but how do you propose that Cartoon Network add value to the free streaming content?

1. Advertising
2. DVD sales (the Adult Swim extras have been particularly good)
3. DVD rentals
4. Streaming licensing deals (e.g. Netflix)
5. Merchandise (action figures, T-shirts, etc etc etc)
6. Appearances at conventions (Comic-Con, Dragon Con, etc)
7. Soundtrack sales (here I must plug the Venture Bros. soundtrack – Jim Thirwell is my favorite artist, and the reason I started watching the show in the first place)

On the other hand, this move gains them… nothing. It certainly won’t convince people to stop cutting the cord. Instead, people will just stop watching the shows. That means fewer eyeballs, and a vastly shrinking market for all of the above.

It also means more piracy, at least in the short term. Probably not in the long term – because after a while, so few people will be interested, that you won’t even be able to find the shows on the pirate sites.

It’s really a pity. Back when I had cable, Adult Swim programs were those I was most interested in. But having cut the cord, I find it kind of embarrassing that I ever paid for cable at all. The Adult Swim site was never particularly friendly to users (no email notifications of new shows, clips mixed in with full episodes, etc), so after a while I just stopped watching.

I’m sure most cable cutters share my experience.

Anonymous Coward says:

So glad I don’t watch those things there.

Instead I pirate the cartoons from Youtube Cartoon Channel.
ps: By pirate I mean I stream those pirate inducing cartoons, I don’t bother to record them.


Dance In The Vampire Bund

Pororo The Little Penguin

African Tales(African Animation Movie)

At the Mountains of Madness – Short Animation Movie

Invention of Love (2010) – Animated Short Film

Heck just type on Youtube “Animated Short”, “Short Movie” and keep busy for weeks.

There should be a list somewhere, I think I will brush up my MariaDB skills and see if I can make a DB of all those free animations on Youtube and elsewhere like Vimeo.

2 of my favorites are The Passenger and Pigeon Impossible.

The passenger

Pigeon Impossible

If anyone wanted they could build a channel on Youtube just showing the new things people keep putting in there.

Red Claw says:

Good Apps Gone Bad

I can’t understand how companies like this get away with this. They say the app and content are free, but in order to get to the content I need to subscribe to a cable or satellite provider. If I have to subscribe to a provider then it’s NO LONGER FREE!!!

And since I don’t have a provider, I can’t log in to watch any of their shows. I also checked Cartoon Network’s website, and they’re doing the same thing on the web. I have to log in to a cable or satellite provider before watching full episodes. For Adult Swim, I’m assuming the same thing their, but I don’t know for sure because I need to install Flash 10.2 or better. I have a PowerMac. The latest version of Flash that I can get is 10.1. I can’t update to a later version! It’s fracking flash! Any version should work! So instead, Cartoon Network and Adult Swim are forcing me to go elsewhere to watch the shows that I want to watch. Places like YouTube and BitTorrent that are now easier to get the shows that I can no longer get via this app or their website.

CN and [AS] needs to get rid of this login to a TV provider crud. All my TV watching I do via IPTV. Heck, I don’t even have a pair of rabbit ears to get over the air broadcasts, much less a digital set top box. I stopped my cable service because I got tired of paying for reruns and content that I’ll never watch. “Over 100 channels to watch…” and yet I still can only watch one channel at a time. So instead of paying a cable provider for TV service, I’m taking my money elsewhere.

Everyone reading this also need to let the companies know how angry we are. Provide feedback to the networks and let your voice been heard.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Good Apps Gone Bad

Sorry I don’t want to let them know how angry I am.

I just want to move on to the next big gr8 cartoon that is free and have no geo restrictions.

I would if I was interested in preserving those cartoons but I’m really not, since they will be encumbered for a thousand years and really I don’t want to feed those trollish people, they can have their content all for themselves I don’t care, I found better things.

Anonymous Coward says:

Politely disagree - whatever happened to "Reason to Buy"?

I generally agree with most of the posts on this site, but I may have to politely disagree with this one. A great deal of time and space here at TechDirt has been spent arguing that content providers should embrace the fact that customers want to watch programming that is time-shifted and format-shifted for their own convenience. This is what they have done here. If you are a customer, then you can watch these programs whenever you want on your PC or portable device.

I understand that the big hullabaloo here is that it used to be available to everyone and now is only available to paying customers. However, I think we must keep a bit of perspective. Remember that if just two or three years ago the cable company had announced that paying customers would be able to watch what they wanted, when they wanted, on the device they wanted, it would have been seen as a win. So much of the complaining here sounds like sour grapes. I don’t say that to be rude or trollish, I just don’t see how providing a desirable service to paying customers justifies all the references to piracy that it seems to be invoking. Isn’t the main focus of so many articles here about providing “Reason to Buy?” Watching may favorite shows on my favorite devices at my preferred times seems like a pretty good reason to buy. At the very least it seems like a step in the right direction.

wenhaver (profile) says:

Cut the cord!

We cut the cord this week. We’ll save well over $1000 a year by doing so, even after factoring in the costs of ala cart replacements for the shows we watch and can’t get over the air. One of my family’s favorite shows is CN’s Adventure Time, which we were unable to stream via PC (last week, when we did have cable), because TWC wasn’t a CN partner – and TWC was our only option for pay tv, as our rental agreement rules out sat providers. So I was an over-paying customer, and I still couldn’t access it.

We hooked up our Apple TV last night, and purchased an episode of Adventure Time to try the thing out. We could only get SD quality. I guess if I want HD I can go infringe, because there doesn’t seem to be a way for me to get it legally. Lame, lame, lame.

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