Commentary

Steal My Show, Please! I'm Looking For Attention

Stealing episodes of TV shows can be good publicity -- especially if you are the number one stolen show.

This honor -- dubious to some -- has gone to Time Warner's HBO show “Game of Thrones” for some time, according to many estimates. Now Jeff Bewkes, chairman/chief executive officer of Time Warner, has called the achievement “better than an Emmy.”

Some TV executives may be doing a double-take, as if Bewkes is approving the whole idea of piracy, which has long been a sore point among many major media companies.  But Bewkes may be thinking of the “coolness” factor.

HBO, of course, still requires extra payment from consumers beyond their basic cable, satellite and telco packages. Less than a third of U.S. TV homes -- 29 million -- get HBO. So its shows can be high on some people’s piracy lists.

Stealing “Thrones,” one of the critics’ favorite shows and also the recipient of big positive word-of-mouth from consumers, is also a case of TV scarcity. This can be rare in the TV world ,where marketing efforts focus on“TV [being] Everywhere.”

Bewkes also went a little rogue in talking about a la carte, something TV distributors and programmers have said would be virtually catastrophic for their business models.  If “a la carte” programming services start, Bewkes said, it would be okay for Time Warner networks.

Though he doesn’t think a la carte will happen, Bewkes said any formula would likely result in more money for the biggest networks “like ours." He added: "We do think some of the weaker networks or weaker groups would fail.”

Has Bewkes seen the light? Surely, big media always says it wants to give customers the programming they want however they get it, which is the logic behind TV Everywhere.  But when it comes to TV a la carte, that kind of follow-the-consumer logic always seems to get a muted reaction.

Why not give them the choice -- a la carte or traditional TV packages -- even with expected crazy monthly pricing schemes? Let the marketplace decide. But maybe not for illegal downloads -- unless your show needs some promotional help.

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