Once Again, Convenience Trumps Free, As Few People Pirate Arrested Development

from the over-and-over-and-over-again dept

We’ve pointed out over and over and over again for years that for many people (certainly not all, but enough to make a huge difference) convenience trumps free when it comes to getting content. The latest example of this in action is the fact that way fewer people downloaded the new Arrested Development from unauthorized sources than other similarly hyped TV shows. As you probably know, the new Arrested Development was released via Netflix, rather than TV, and all episodes were immediately available. Unlike other TV shows that are tied to cable and hardly available online at all, Arrested Development was easy to watch online for those who had a Netflix account (which also doesn’t require additional fees to watch the show if you already have a subscription).

So: it was available online, easy to watch, no marginal cost (if you had the subscription) and available on multiple platforms without limitation (i.e. no “you must watch within 24 hours”).

The bizarre thing is that so many of the efforts by the entertainment industry seem to be designed to make things less convenient. They don’t make it available online. They require you to have a cable account. They have added costs per episode or show. There are requirements about how long you have to watch it. And then they wonder why there’s so much infringement?

If you offer a good product, that focuses on access and convenience, people are clearly willing to pay. This has been the lesson for well over a decade. It’s amazing that it still needs to be repeated.

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Companies: netflix

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Comments on “Once Again, Convenience Trumps Free, As Few People Pirate Arrested Development”

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fogbugzd (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Resurrecting old shows is great, but I am afraid that the industry is going to fall into the trap of only doing remakes of “proven” shows. We already have the movie industry stuck in the sequel and comic book rut and I am afraid Netflix and is supplies are going the same way.

Netflix, please give me more original like House of Cards. Don’t go overboard on canceled series.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Now that we have the internet the writers can tell us how a series would end. There was a show on NBC that I forget the name of (Renunion?) where high-school graduates get back together and one is murdered. It lasted one season and the killer was never revealed on air. Someone had to write in to a column called TV Pipeline and ask.

It would be good that, after a few months when they’re reasonably sure they’re not getting picked up someone else, they can explain everything.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I have Netflix on a number of my devices. (Cut the cable BTW.)

I just looked it up on my Android phone . . . oh my . . .

Serenity, 1h 58min, is available for streaming to my phone right now, and by now I mean right now this instant.

Next, I looked up Firefly, and I see 14 episodes.

1. Serenity 86m
2. The Train job 43m
. . .
14. Objects in Space 44m

All instantly streamable to my phone, my tablet, my Google TV (at home), my TiVo (at home) and my work computer which runs a non-free and non-Free operating system (windows).

Is that rescued enough for you?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The person who wrote the article on HuffingandPuffingtonPost mentioned GoT. I don’t see where Mike did. You’re trying so hard to discredit him that you aren’t even paying attention to who is saying what anymore. You reek of desperation. I’m seeing that more and more from Trolls these days. People are waking up and picking your shit apart and calling you on it now. Must be scary to realize that you’ve been screaming “FUD!” at the top of your lungs whilst shoveling astronomical amounts of it… and now…. sorry.. laughing too hard.. can’t finish.. post.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

the best thing is, you have to wait for mike to post something that you can rip into.

the big difference between mike and you is this very fact above. Mike doesn’t wait for stuff to happen, like you do, every damn day, to comment on it. Mike doesn’t need to because this stuff generally (Righthaven, Prenda) writes itself. And people keep learning about the Streisand Effect. So he always has material.

so, my takeaway is you are a parasitic leech. Without mike, you’d having nothing to wait for/write about and your existance would be meaningless. Without you though.. well, Mike doesnt need you. Without you, Mike will still be covering copyright, patents and other things that interest him. No need for you at all.

so, keep on leeching, freetard.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re:

…but Netflix did not bother with the ridiculous regional release schedule…

Nor is it limited only to the five latest episodes.

NBC screwed the pooch with Revolution series for me. I was following it online because the wife wasn’t interested in the show. I got six episodes behind, and when I went to catch up on the series, the episode I was on was no longer available.

So now they no longer have my eyeballs on their advertisements anymore. This senseless artificial restriction has actually cost them revenue. If I ever do decide to revisit the series again, I am forced to turn to the torrents where they get no ad revenue. Makes no sense to me.

out_of_the_blue says:

STOP the world! Mike sez: "convenience trumps free"!

Actually, PAYING IS PAYING: “doesn’t require additional fees to watch the show if you already have a subscription”, and SOME REVENUE OTHER THAN NONE is all that most producers ask. That there is exactly the problem with your piratey notions: you claim that content should be free and revenue from elsewhere (T-shirt sales), and THAT just won’t work. But advertising has supported free television and radio for decades. No news here.

You also say paywalls don’t work, but here it is! Sure, it’s incremental on Netflix and so low, but it’s a paywall.

tracker1 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Netflix as Paywall

Netflix actually is a Paywall… however, what netflix offers isn’t a regurgitation of facts that are widely available, distributed and free elsewhere, which is why newspaper paywalls simply don’t work.

In this case, it’s a service that offers video material, in an all-you-can-watch fashion, and for a reasonable price. They’re funding new/original content, and unlike Hulu and Hulu Prime isn’t littered with increasing ads.

I was actually a big fan of Hulu early on, when there were maybe 1-2 ads per show… now it’s almost as bad as watching on broadcast tv… I cut the cord a few years ago, and prefer to watch tv without the ads. The experience is much better.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: STOP the world! Mike sez: "convenience trumps free"!

“That there is exactly the problem with your piratey notions: you claim that content should be free and revenue from elsewhere (T-shirt sales), and THAT just won’t work.”

You have a point there. What you gotta do is sell hats.

Hey, stop snickering. I’m serious here.

I just recently started playing Team Fortress 2 (peer pressure made me do it). The game was originally paid for but it became Free To Play recently (more like friggin years ago). The F2P version retains the same functionality of the paid version, except that you have to work harder to unlock stuff (as far as I know).

As far as I can tell, the business model for that game is selling hats for your in-game avatar. And judging by the fact that there are a ton of people with hats out there, I’d say that Valve isn’t exactly becoming poor thanks to the game. In fact, I seem to remember that they are making insane amounts of cash from a free game…by essentially selling hats.

I know this doesn’t sit well with you, but yes, you can make money by giving stuff away. You can make very stupidly large amounts of money.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: STOP the world! Mike sez: "convenience trumps free"!

Not just that, but free hats are given away as promotional items. Similar is DOTA 2, where you have a chance to get free items all the time, but some of those are chests that you need keys for.

And where do you get the keys? Why, in the game’s client, of course!

n_mailer says:

Re: Re: STOP the world! Mike sez: "convenience trumps free"!

” SOME REVENUE OTHER THAN NONE is all that most producers ask”

Somebody actually said this? This is a lie about pro-copyright spin.

What the lobby says producers ask for is ‘enough,” not some.”

Remember David Lowery’s letter to Emily the NPR intern about her using Spotify and ripping already-sold CDs? Those options net “some” revenue, but obviously not “enough” to avoid his wrath.

Why would someone claim to be pro-copyright on TD and not understand or care about the pro-copyright argument?

RD says:

Re: STOP the world! Mike sez: "convenience trumps free"!

“That there is exactly the problem with your piratey notions: you claim that content should be free and revenue from elsewhere (T-shirt sales), and THAT just won’t work. But advertising has supported free television and radio for decades. No news here.”

Shut the fuck up you LYING SHILL SACK OF SHIT. Sick of your trotting out lie after baldfaced lie on EVERY fucking article. You just cant wait to jump right in with your LieList to try to derail yet another relevant conversation.

It has been pointed out to you SEVERAL times that all of the above bullshit you just spewed is not true, has never been true, and is not what this site is saying or supporting. Go make your own fucking shill website if you want to spread lies.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Remember, the RIAA are the people who sued Diamond Rio for making the very first MP3 player.

Imagine that. There is a market for an innovation:
* a solid state device
* immune to shock
* won’t skip on playback if you take it jogging
* long battery life
* store lots of content on a very tiny device, with preprogrammed “wear out” of 1000 plays.

But Noooooo. The RIAA can’t have a company making a useful device for people to legally load their legally purchased CD’s onto. No way. If you want innovation, you’ve got to pay the RIAA for the privilege of using another format.

So you don’t forget, order before midnight tomorrow.
$8.99 for vinyl disk
$16.99 for cassette
$19.99 for CD
$99.99 for DRMed digital file limited to one device

And who says the dinosaur copyright maximallists are trying to stop innovation? Oh yeah, anyone who can see, that’s who.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I will never buy an album for more than ?5. They are not worth more. Anything that is over I download and eventually buy when it is at the right price.

What pisses me off is that on amazon the CD is usually the same price as the digital download that is of poorer quality, costs less to produce, and doesn’t require postage.

Anonymous Coward says:

but if there is no one pirating, there are no politicians that need bribing, there are no court cases to bring, there are no laws that need implementing via the bribed politicians to warrant arresting anyone and taking to court to prove the point that the entertainment industry is dying! what would these execs do all day? they have to keep the myth alive to keep them occupied and not have to admit they have been wrong all along!!

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

For the love of God, won’t someone please think of the lawyers.

Michael Crichton does all my thinking about lawyers for me, ever since Jurassic Park.

Just wish we could send some of the Prenda lawyers for an all expenses paid vacation at a little island off the coast of Costa Rica, but we’d have to pay some unfortunate folks to set up cameras on the island first so that we can get access to the video via NetFlix. But then again, seeing John Steele go head-to-head with a Velociraptor may increase their subscriptions so they could make more shows.

Dan S (profile) says:

Reduced piracy doesn’t mean better profits though.

It could, and I’m happy to see people supporting this through licit channels, but it would be helpful to know if eliminating piracy like this, vs taking some piracy because you have asshole policies, is cost effective for the corps. That’s all that matters to them at the end of the day, sadly.

Basically, can they make more with high margins on a few customers vs low on more.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The margins-argument is not as relevant as rules, boundaries and limitations for the individual content producer.

They see their customers as other companies who do the distribution through exclusive deals. Thus: They do not see the end-users as their customer and since they are responsible for honouring their exclusivity deals, they have to hire lawyers and companies to send DMCAs. The customers they achieve have to be good enough to shell out good sums of money so we are talking a relatively small base.

As for profitability of lone company measures, it is pretty clear that we are not gonna get any useful numbers. Since most of the content providers rely on lobbying to a high degree, the rules of lobbying applies:
Internal documents showing indications not in the interest of your strategy are trade secrets, while documents showing indications in your interest gets bassuned out to everybody. Since we haven’t seen many such internal numbers on the different effects, the assumptions must be: They are too stupid to measure the effects, they are not interested enough in knowing them or the numbers they have indicate that the effects are against their interests. Either way, the result is a lack of deeper arguments from the lobbyists and therefore noisy drivel to be shot down if you look just a little under the surface…

Rikuo (profile) says:

Torrentfreak has a different angle on this


Has quotes from the comment sections of torrent sites, where the downloaders say things like
“?I have a Swedish Netflix account, but for some stupid reason the PS3 app won?t let me turn the subtitles off. I can choose between Swedish, Finnish etc subtitles but there?s no option to turn them off completely. So here I am downloading the episodes, even though I have Netflix, just to watch without subtitles.?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

He did not say no one download it but, the approximate 175,000 people who downloaded it within to days is nothing compared to the 1000,0000+ people who downloaded Game of Thrones within one day and the number of people who download popular TV shows in general. And even Ernesto, the person who wrote the TorrentFreak article said in the Huffington Post article that “I think the piracy numbers for Arrested Development do not really stand out. They are far below cable shows such as Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad and Dexter”.

horse with no name says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The game of throne thing was blown out of proportion, it became a meme of it’s own just to download it, even if you didn’t want to watch it. Since that point, TGOT threads at most chat boards are pretty rare, and the ones you see are pretty much boobs, boobs, boobs.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

That’s one way of looking at it (a silly one, TBH. Downloading is a meme now?)

More likely, Arrested Development was made available to anyone with a Netflix subscription (which covers many more countries than HBO), all at the same time, and has legal ways to see it for free (Netflix offer free trial subs). So, most people could watch the show more quickly than it would take to download (even those of us not strictly allowed to watch but who can use VPNs to stream).

Compare that to HBO’s model, which includes overcharging existing cable customers (you have to have a pricey cable sub before they’ll even let you subscribe), heavy region windowing (some territories have to wait months for a legal release) and no legal free option in many places.

You have to be deliberately obtuse to ignore these factors.

Techdirt Lurker (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I think the comparison to shows like Dexter and Game of Thrones ignores the fact that Arrested Development has never had the audience that those shows have. Its apples and oranges.

I can’t find a way to view how many people completed (snatched) the file on the major public bt sites. The private trackers, where I can sort by “snatched” value, show that its matching numbers with shows like South Park, American Dad, Family Guy, Big Bang Theory, and The Office. Comparing view counts on a couple of popular streaming sites corroborates this. This makes sense, given that the fanbase is very likely to overlap for a lot for these shows.

I feel that comparing the numbers from Arrested Development to shows that very obviously appeal to a much larger audience is bordering on deceitful. After doing a little digging myself, its obvious to me that Arrested Development ranked right around average for TV show piracy, and I was shocked to see Techdirt report otherwise.

I was really disappointed to see such high piracy numbers for a show I consider to be “doing things right” in terms of delivery of content. I was disappointed a second time to see it marginalized on a site I look to for reliable information.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

But, as ever, the numbers don’t tell the whole story. They don’t, for example show the following: downloads from countries where Netflix is not available, downloads from people who are already Netflix subscribers (some may wish to have an offline copy for travel or other use – not currently a legal option), downloads from people who tried accessing Netflix but suffered technical problems, etc. There are many groups of people who either cannot pay legally, or who already are.

While the numbers can be seen as disappointing, any conclusion you draw from them is necessarily incomplete. The question is going to be whether Netflix are happy with the actual viewing figures, and that’s the key. Obsessing over pirated downloads makes no sense, especially when some of those downloads are going to be in the groups above, some of whom are already paying customers.

Techdirt Lurker (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I think the point of this particular thread was more that the headline “Once Again, Convenience Trumps Free, As Few People Pirate Arrested Development” seems to be intentionally misleading.

Also, the TF article does touch on one of your points.

Looking at a sample of the geographical locations of the pirates we see that the United States comes out on top with 18%. Other countries where Netflix is available, such as Canada (11.8%), United Kingdom (5.6%) and Sweden (3.5%) are also high on the list. In fact, Australia is the only non-Netflix country in the top five.

Argonel (profile) says:

Watch Arrested development for free, the same way many people watched house of cards for free. All you have to do is sign up for a new Netflix account and then you have 30 days to watch as much as you want before canceling without being charged. As I recall Netflix said about 10% people did that for House of Cards, which means 90% of people that signed up just to watch House of Cards decided to keep the subscription.

Seems like a winning plan for Netflix.

Techdirt Lurker says:

But....the numbers

I’m a daily reader here and I usually am right on board with the articles that are posted, but I can’t agree with Mike’s take on this story.

I find it surprising that no numbers were provided. Giving Mike the benefit of the doubt, maybe he didn’t check the popular torrent sites until just recently. The numbers are certainly low now, but the first two days that the show was out, they were definitely showing better than average numbers for a tv show when sorting by seeds/leechers, at peak closing in on 200k.

The article on torrent freak was more accurate, I feel.

Over the past two days more than 175,000 people have pirated episodes of the revived cult series Arrested Development. While the numbers don?t come close to those of hit series Game of Thrones, it?s remarkable to see how many of the downloaders come from regions where the entire season is available on Netflix. Full article

I think TF was on target with their opinion that if the show had been released on cable, without the widespread availability netflix gives, the download count would have been much higher, but to say “few people download arrested development” seems intentionally misleading given the facts.

I hope I don’t get downvoted into oblivion because I really do respect and agree with 99% of what is posted here at techdirt, but I can’t let this go by without comment.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: But....the numbers

But, Netflix has built the model so that this doesn’t matter. They are not looking to get X amount of viewers to get advertisers paying and supposedly losing money if people download instead. They are looking to get X number of additional regular subscribers, who can download as well for all they care.

In this sense, even comparing the download figures is misleading if trying to work out any negative effect. Someone downloading this show isn’t really taking any more money from Netflix than if they signed up for a free trial (and in fact are taking less, since they don’t cost them anything in bandwidth).

I understand where you’re coming from, but at best all these figures do is prove that some people will download regardless – and thus should not be considered lost revenue. The real question is how many subscribers Netflix have gained or retained as a result of this – and the outlook so far looks very good:

“It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison with Netflix’s “House of Cards,” but Cullen said that “from our perspective, ‘Arrested Development’ had about three times the subscriber viewing that we saw from ‘House of Cards.’ “”(from http://www.cnbc.com/id/100770605)

“A few days ago, Netflix announced that, in large measure a result of House of Cards, they brought in two million more subscribers.” (from http://collider.com/house-of-cards-kevin-spacey-beau-willimon-interview/)

We’ll see, but if Netflix can get millions of subscribers while accepting a thousands of downloads will happen, I don’t see the problem.

Techdirt Lurker (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 But....the numbers

I couldn’t agree with you more. Offering original programming and a free trial that gives access to it is brilliant and hopefully more than makes up for the piracy. There will always be a subset of any fanbase that will torrent shows regardless of what legal alternatives are available and I think we all know and acknowledge that.

My point was really more that I’m disappointed in the angle Mike approached this story from. None of the data I can find points to a conclusion that “few people pirate Arrested Development” and Mike doesn’t provide any data himself. One of the reasons I like the articles here is that they are almost always backed up with verifiable facts. Again, I totally agree with almost everything I read here, but I don’t blindly accept it.

It seems that both sides of the copyright agenda can sometimes willfully ignore data in order to make their own point. I assumed the usual suspects (AC, OOTB) would make the usual remarks, and I wanted to point out that in this case I also take exception to what is being reported – and I’m not a troll/shill.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 But....the numbers

Hey, no problem. I tend to find that nobody here has a real issue with dissenting voices as long as they’re based on logic and fact and not used as some kind of personal attack (all things the ACs and OOTB consistently fail to do). Polite insight is always welcome.

I do agree to some extent with what you’re saying, I just happen to think it’s not one of the important issues to consider here. But, your opinion is equally valid, and thanks for stating it.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 But....the numbers

I do see your point, but on digging further into the numbers, it seems to me that the premise still holds. We don’t have netflix ratings for the show unfortunately, but lets compare it to some other shows using TV ratings and piracy numbers, plus AD’s ratings from when it was on Fox:

– Arrested Development ratings on fox: 6.2-million average in first season, lower by the end with 3.43-million watching the finale — source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrested_Development_(TV_series)#Television_ratings

– Some selections from the top pirated shows of 2012 (when GoT was #1), with both piracy & tv numbers (all based on a single popular episode):

Hit shows on broadcast networks:

Big Bang Theory – 3.2-mil DL, 15.8-mil TV
How I Met Your Mother – 2.9-mil DL, 10.1-mil TV
House – 2.3-mil DL, 9.7-mil TV

Hit shows on specialty cable networks:

Game of Thrones – 4.2-mil downloaders, 4.2-mil TV viewers
Breaking Bad – 2.5-mil DL, 2.9-mil TV
Homeland – 2.4-mil DL, 2.3-mil TV
Dexter – 3.8-mil DL, 2.7-mil TV

So the pattern is fairly clear: broadcast networks still have far more TV viewers than downloaders, whereas cable networks have number that are close, or sometimes even fewer viewers than downloaders.

Now, we don’t know how many people watched AD on Netflix… but we do know that Netflix has almost 30-million subscribers, which is about the same as HBO’s audience in the U.S. — HBO’s global audience is about 115-million.

Obviously, we are lacking some of the key data points that would let us draw a solid conclusion about piracy rates — but when you look at the audience size numbers and compare it to some other shows, it still seems highly likely that

Techdirt Lurker (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 But....the numbers

Keep in mind that that number (175,000) was peak seeders, not total downloads. If TPB or KAT would display total snatches we could difinitively put this to rest. TorrentFreak has better access to data from those trackers, so I trust those year-end totals to be accurate, but there’s really no way to compare that to peak seeders. I think you’ll find though, if you keep an eye on the tv section of KAT, 175k peak seeders is close to average for the more popular series.

Anonymous Coward says:

Streaming still has limitations

It seems lately my internet connection (6mbit DSL) has been somewhat unreliable – specifically during peak hours, I see a lot of packet loss and latency increases. I blame AT&T, since they provide my virtual circuit to sonic.net. I have to call them out several times a year to replace hardware in their remote DSLAM terminal, and troubleshoot connection issues.

Ultimately, this tends to cause problems with streaming media – so I’ve gotten in the habit of just downloading entire season torrents, dumping them on my NAS, and watching them whenever I have some downtime. Bonus points that I can load them on my tablet and watch them on the plane when I travel several times a month.

Streaming will never be 100% convenient.

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