TV shows will continue to be stolen
Now that the new semester has begun, keeping up with the latest television shows is going to become a problem for most college students.
Whether it is because their dorm or apartment does not have a television, because they are busy, or simply because they forget, students who desire top economic standing will have less time to be TV junkies. As the semester progresses, the chances that a student will find his or herself sitting down in front of a television at a set time once a week is rarely an assured thing.
There are many ways to catch up with missed shows, of course. Lucky students can simply set their DVR to record every new episode of the shows they like as they air. This doesn’t work for everyone, as being able to do that one would need to purchase a cable subscription that comes with a box that has recording capabilities, requiring a budget most college students don’t have.
Buying the episodes on iTunes is also an expense that quickly adds up. Most popular TV shows cost $2.99 per episode. It’s not a lot but those three dollars add up quickly.
Television studios, such as ABC, NBC, Fox and their various competitors, provide free alternatives. Fans can generally stream shows on Hulu.com or the networks’ website the next day. Of course, these streams are often of choppy quality due to a slow internet connection and riddled with commercials that are even more annoying to see on computer screens than on TVs. To make matters worse for this alternative, many popular shows are only released to official websites a week after they aired, not the next day or the next hour, as viewers would prefer.
That leaves the not-quite-legal methods of viewing TV shows. Once a show airs in the U.S., there is no way for television studios to stop technologically savvy pirates from creating and sharing digital copies of the latest episode with the world. This means that all anyone needs is to know what they are doing (or have a friend willing to explain it to them), click on a couple of links and instantly download or stream a high-quality version of their favorite show in a matter of minutes. A quick Google search will generally bring up a dozen websites to watch any given episode of a television show. This is not legal in America because of copyright laws, but it is a whole lot cheaper and easier than the routes that allow TV networks to make a profit.
This, of course, is a huge problem for the networks. They are private businesses — out to make as much of a profit as possible. From the networks’ prospective, websites like YouTube that allow users to stream or download shows from a couple hours after they are released are a huge drain on their potential incomes. These websites threaten to do to the television industry what Napster did to music. Only, unlike Napster, there are many well-developed television show and movie torrenting websites stationed on servers in numerous countries — even if networks manage to use legal means to put one site out of business, the others will still flourish, and new websites will appear.
Now, here is the truly confusing part: television studios show no signs of looking for ways to compete with the ease provided by the internet. Instead, according to the New York Post, many television networks, including CBS and NBC, have refused to even consider a TV show rental deal proposed by Apple. The company wants to provide two-day rentals of new episodes for $0.99 the day after each episode airs, a method significantly cheaper for consumer than $2.99 purchases. More importantly, it allows television networks to make a profit, something they will likely miss out on if the trends of current TV junkies continue.
The truth is that people just want to see their shows. Few care whether their methods are legal or moral, so long as they do not suffer any consequences. Since networks rarely bother to take legal action against people who watch episodes illegally, the number of people who watch television using illegal methods will only increase with time.
If networks want to profit, they need to find a way to change that.
Casey Goodwin is a mechanical engineering sophomore and may be reached at [email protected]