Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Tech and TV Conundrum (Or The Lack Thereof)

Yesterday, I read an article on Time Magazine's website about why we want TV to be disrupted so badly, and I had a revelation: Why hasn't Apple or Google done that super-disruption of the TV space thus far?

First, a little bit of background: The music business, back in the late 90s and early 2000s, was racked by piracy and they had to find some way to save their business.  The way they did it was they allowed Apple and their fledgling music application/store/service/etc, iTunes, to take over and see what happened.  Not only did the music business suddenly start thriving, they realized they had backed themselves into a corner with their Apple / iTunes deal and the other pieces of the entertainment industry still has reason to be wary of Apple and iTunes.

Now, why hasn't that super-disruption happened?  I think that negotiations are still ongoing, I have no idea (and I probably won't have any idea of when this will happen) and frankly I think the super-disruption will either start out small and grow bigger and bigger, like the iTunes Store did, or it'll start out with a bang and maintain its velocity like the App Store did.

I find it very interesting that, while the rumor mill is talking about gold/champagne iPhones and iPad iOS 7 delays (the latter I find highly unlikely), we've not heard much about the fabled iWatch or the fabled entry/disruption in TV.  Heck, usually we would've heard about any surprise announcements for the (rumored but more than likely still on) September 10th event by now, but the rumor mill has largely stayed silent on this fact.  The doubling down on secrets Tim Cook talked about has, in fact, been the rule.

Heck, I don't even know when Apple will debut new Macs and new iPads.  They've talked about that gorgeous-looking new Mac Pro, but they've not yet specified price or release date other than "fall 2013" in a new movie theater ad spot that I will more than likely see on Wednesday when I go in to see "Jobs", the sadly bombing independent Steve Jobs biopic starring Ashton Kutcher as the titular late great.

Now, what can the movie/TV/video game businesses do to fight rampant piracy of their content?  Take the example of GOG.com, CD Projekt RED's fabulous digital games distributor.  They provide all the games they offer, both retro and indie, with star level treatment that the pirates cannot better, and they don't lock their content down with debilitating DRM, or digital rights management.  They actually provide a better customer / user experience than the pirates.

Google does this pretty well also, much to their credit.  I cannot tell if there's any way that their Google Play movies, music, and TV shows have DRM, but if they don't rear their ugly heads and get in users' way, then they can create an experience that isn't awful.

So, the movie and TV businesses need to get their digital strategies right.  They need to stop fearing piracy and go full throttle into a new digital age.  Fact of the matter is, it's the movie and TV businesses' collective fear of piracy that is, unfortunately, fueling piracy from those who either a) do not have the funds to buy things legitimately, or b) wish to access a movie or TV show on any device they choose, no restrictions to bump into, no hoops to jump through, and most certainly no restrictive formats.  The column A people you'll never collect money from, so forget them.  The column B people, on the other hand, are the people who are woefully underserved in today's horribly fragmented marketplace.  So, serve those people and your piracy problem is pretty much solved.

Hey, that's a solution that is almost too easy, right? Actually, it's common sense.  Treating your paying customers like pirates only increases the order of magnitude in which piracy affects the business of entertainment.  But giving the customers what they want (which seems to be such a difficult proposition for these movie and TV studios) and NOT treating them like they'll "just pirate this stuff anyway" is actually going to help them make MORE money, instead of losing it to "piracy".