What TV Should Be
Thanks Joss Whedon and crew for showing us what TV should be. I always maintain to my friends and acquaintances that the complaints that the RIAA and the MPAA etc. make that piracy is harming their businesses are at least wrong, and at most lies concocted to protect their obsolete business models.
I maintain that some of the reasons for dropping sales of music CDs and DVD movies (besides the studios being creatively bankrupt) are due to the content producers not understanding what customers want in terms of distribution. I really think people (especially younger internet-savvy people) want instant gratification with respect to media. People want to be able to get and watch whatever they want, whenever they want it, and pay a-la-carte for that content. Not all people want to steal media, and many people who habitually download music and video from torrent sites are not motivated so much by wanting to steal things as they are by wanting to control when and where they consume their media. That’s why DVRs are so popular, and why the iTunes store is so successful. When it is easier to get pirated media that suits your media consumption desires than it is to get the legit stuff, people pirate it.
Unfortunately, the braindead idiots in charge of these big media companies try to change the pirate-versus-pay equation only by making legal attacks on people using pirated media. Decreasing piracy is not necessarily a bad goal, but their methods are so hostile that they only succeed in alienating their potential customers. Instead of just focusing on making piracy more difficult, they should be making it easier and cheaper to get legitimate media in the ways that customers want (downloadable in unrestricted formats from the Internet at any time with easy payment options).
Joss Whedon and his crew of creative geniuses have recently released something that if financially successful, makes my point for me. There are no big media companies involved in the production of the content (which often is a sure fire way to screw it up anyhow). They gave themselves permission to simply come up with a fun idea, and make it a reality. They didn’t have to pre-sell it to get it bankrolled, and didn’t have to put up with studio jiggery-pokery in the creative process.
The first line of distribution for Doctor Horrible was for free on the Internet. The producers used modern social networking tools to attract a fan base and create a buzz before the first show aired. They catered to the fan community instead of being hostile to them (an approach that Joss used previously to greenlight a big-screen movie from a failed TV show). They gave us a treat by letting us see the show for free (!!) for a limited time. They are offering it for a very low price on the iTunes music store (the de-facto internet media distribution mechanism available to the largest number of people). While the iTunes store does use DRM for video, which has been repeatedly been proven ineffectual to the point where Apple is shying away from it, the rest of my talking points are met by that distribution mechanism, and realistically, iTunes is pretty much the only game with a large scale customer-friendly digital media store.
Joss and his family/collaborator team speculated that they could make something entertaining outside of the big media establishment, and ventured their own money in a gamble that they could make it pay. The production of Doctor Horrible smashes so many of the problems of broken old-school media creation and distribution that I would be a hypocrite not to support it with my dollars. I’ve paid for it on iTunes, and I will buy the DVD and probably the soundtrack, especially if it will be downloadable on the iTunes store in non-DRM format. I would do so just to make a point, but luckily for me, it’s well worth the price, and is over-the-top entertaining.
Keep it up Joss. Media moguls: Pay attention to what these guys are doing. They are smarter than you.