July 16th, 2005

mushishi - mushi

How Battlestar Galactica Killed Broadcast TV

Piracy is Good? is a fascinating read, and I recommend it to everyone who uses BitTorrent to get tv. And also everyone who doesn't. (Or doesn't yet.) It's a look at what could be the future of television - and what really should be its present.

It opens with an explanation of BitTorrent, and then explains that the new Battlestar Galactica series premiered on the UK network SkyOne three months before it started airing in the US. As most of us know, today that's not something that's going to stop people who want to Watch Battlestar Galactica and don't want to wait three months. Within hours of airing, the first episode was available through BitTorrent. This isn't the interesting bit. The interesting bit is what the consequences of this were:

While you might assume the SciFi Channel saw a significant drop-off in viewership as a result of this piracy, it appears to have had the reverse effect: the series is so good that the few tens of thousands of people who watched downloaded versions told their friends to tune in on January 14th, and see for themselves. From its premiere, Battlestar Galactica has been the most popular program ever to air on the SciFi Channel, and its audiences have only grown throughout the first series. Piracy made it possible for "word-of-mouth" to spread about Battlestar Galactica.

Now, isn't that interesting? Not surprising, not to me, and probably not to my fellow fans, but interesting nonetheless. The rest of his article is even more interesting, because it presents a reasonable economic model of how to use BitTorrent to "hyperdistribute" tv-shows, bringing programming straight to the audience when they want it and where they want it. Because, as he says, the last 50 years have taught us to love television, and to want television. Now what's happening is that we want it immediately - and we have means of getting it immediately that bypasses the regular channels. That changes everything.

But don't trust me on my word. Read the article! Or better yet - download the entire presentation (available through BitTorrent, of course). I was able to follow Pesce's reasoning much more easily when I had visual aids, and I found he was a good speaker, easy to listen to. So do that. And then come back here and discuss it with me, because my head is just bursting with sorts of ideas and opinions and isn't this cool? ^_^
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