Quick TV Calculation: I've Seen About 11,000 TV Episodes -- Almost For Free

Piracy is still a big issue for big entertainment concerns. But for consumers, the microscope focuses heavily on the one area where people can more easily pick out the victims: musicians.

Here is a New York Times headline: "NPR Intern Gets an Earful After Blogging About 11,000 Songs, Almost None Paid For."

What if we were to replace the word "songs" with "TV shows"? Would that make sense? Would we be concerned about a TV producer, writer or actor?

For consumers, one immediate nonreflective reaction might be -- I don't pay for any TV shows. It's free. But think a bit longer: the TV set, the laptop, or the tablet, all cost money. Then there's the cable service, the broadband service, and/or satellite or telco service.

You can do some of this math with music, where the big device manufacturers and the technology companies remain the current beneficiaries -- all of which leaves the content owners on the outs, the musicians or the music rights holders (record labels).

The intern says her huge library comes through sharing files with friends and other sources, and that a very tiny amount of it came -- perhaps -- from illegal means. Many people blogged her back -- including musicians -- to retort that in the most politeful way that she was, in fact, scamming the system.

This continues the current longtime thinking by a generation of young people: They believe they should not have to pay for music -- apart from buying tickets at concerts. (Which the intern says she has.) Making the same leap -- perhaps more easily -- those same people believe they shouldn't have to pay for TV shows -- or perhaps movies for that matter.

TV shows, as entertainment, come in a different business model than music or movies. It's built under a longtime business eco-system that advertisers, for the most part, pay the freight. In more recent years, we can add the fact that revenues from consumers' monthly fees of multichannel programming services are now firmly in the mix. Now, broadcast network stations are new beneficiaries of this revenue stream, too.

But what do we hear more recently? That now 17.8% of U.S. television homes are only getting broadcast stations -- freely, or through cheap over-the- top TV providers. Are some of those people blogging about free TV?  Maybe they are keeping quiet.

What will change people's point of view? When they have to start thinking about the cost of TV shows of a la carte basis -- or at least recognizing that TV shows, like movies, like individual songs, cost real dollars?

There doesn't have to be an actual transaction. Perhaps, every time a TV show went on the air, and a $0.25 logo appeared briefly in the corner of TV screen -- as a running tabulation of one's monthly usage -- it would stick in the minds of consumers that TV shows aren't a free download.

And all paid for -- by someone.



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