Wil Wheaton Discusses TV, Cord-Cutting, Piracy... And Trying Desperately To Make Sure Fans Can Watch His Show

from the still-being-awesome dept

Look, we already know that Wil Wheaton is awesome (and I don't just say that because he's admitted to being a big Techdirt fan). He has consistently been awesome to fans, building up true connections with those fans by being more open, human and awesome, as can be seen in just about every story we've had about him. As you hopefully already know, Wheaton has a new TV show, the Wil Wheaton Project on Syfy. Ever since he announced the program, he made it clear that while it was out of his control, he would do his damnedest to make sure the show was available online.

The show is now two weeks in, and Wheaton has put up a fascinating blog post about "ratings, cord-cutters, and torrents" in which he notes that the ratings of the second episode were down a bit, and he's trying not to let it get him down. However, he then realizes that the first episode was available (in an authorized fashion) online, while the second episode is not. So he checks out the Pirate Bay, and sees much greater interest in the second episode. Because duh.
Now, here's something interesting that I'm probably going to get yelled at by the network goons for sharing, but it's important and relevant. A lot of people have told me that I haven't been able to watch our second episode online. I understand that if they try to watch it at Syfy.com, and they don't have a cable or satellite provider, they can't see it. I understand that it isn't even on Hulu like our first episode was, and the show isn't on Hulu+ at all.

With that in mind, look at this, from about an hour ago, from The Pirate Bay:
Last week, our first episode had a total of about 800 seeders and about half as many leechers. Math is hard, but I'm going to estimate over 2300 seeders and almost as many leechers, for our second episode alone. That's pretty huge growth and interest from people who probably want to watch our show, but can't, because they're cord cutters, or they're in a country that doesn't carry the show. Yes, I know there are people who want everything for free and won't pay for anything, but I don't count them as "lost" viewers, because they were never going to be scored by advertisers or the network, anyway.
Rather than do what many less awesome folks might do (which is freak out or even scold people about it), he pulled a Louis CK, and basically just addressed people honestly.
Our show costs a lot of money to make. It's possible to make our show because Syfy licenses it from us, and then sells advertising on the show to cover their investment. If everything goes according to plan, it's profitable. If it's profitable, we get to keep making more episodes. The best way to help us be profitable, then, is to watch the show on Syfy when it airs during the week. I don't fully understand the realities and nuances of licensing and all that, but I do know that the world is rapidly changing, and a lot of people don't want to watch TV live. I know that lots of people don't want cable because they can't afford it, or because they hate cable companies. I know that a lot of those people would gladly pay for Amazon on demand, an iTunes subscription, whatever Google Play does, or watch some ads on Hulu or Hulu+. I'm doing everything I can to let the people who make those deals know this, but I'm a very small voice in a very loud room. If you want to help make that voice louder, you can write a polite email to Syfy and let them know that you want to watch the show in a way that supports us.


Before I go, I just want to reiterate that I want you to watch our show, and I want you to like our show so much that you keep watching it. I'm trying my best to make it easy for you to watch our show in a way that helps us pay for it, so we can keep making more of it. I know for some of you it's easier to just fire up a torrent client and go to down, and I'm sympathetic to that. But I'll ask all of you, please, if you can watch the show in a way that counts for our network and our advertisers, please do.
And, as we've seen time and time again, people want to support the artists they love and the artists that respect them back. This is Wheaton being perfectly respectful, and totally open about the situation. Hopefully the folks at Syfy get that -- and figure out a way to get the show online in an authorized and convenient manner soon.

Filed Under: access, cord cutting, file sharing, piracy, the wil wheaton project, tv, wil wheaton
Companies: syfy

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  1. identicon
    Michael, 9 Jun 2014 @ 8:19am


    I was heavily involved in TV and Radio commercial pricing for years (I recently left that industry).

    There are a lot of cost-per-point models for advertising pricing in Television. Although arguably very unreliable, the Nielsen ratings are the standard for the industry. They are based on samples taken in different demographics throughout the country. The samples are taken essentially rhough a box that keeps track of what people are watching (people selected by Nielsen and have agreed to this). There are also some surveys that they take.

    It is not a great way of tracking TV usage, but people don't seem to want their smart TV's to track it for them, so it is basically the best they currently have.

    The model is flawed and could be greatly improved upon with the current technology, but Nielsen has not been able to get networks to buy into new ways of doing it. I am sure because they are afraid of changing business models and certainly because the big networks don't want to face anything that indicates that their audience is not the largest and most important.

    As far as embedding commercials into legal torrents and mp4's available on network websites - I can tell you one of the majors has been looking into this very seriously. The problem is they get stuck with the commercials in the file and you end up with crazy legal arguments from the commerical actors as well as no way to change out the ads when you want to re-sell the program.

    I am still convinced that the best thing a big network could do right now is to give their cable deals the finger, partner with Amazon, and get an amazon streaming player with their network channel streaming on it live, with commercials based on customer Amazon usage and a giant "Buy Me" button on the remote.

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