The other day I had the opportunity to test some of my focus group questions on a friend of mine. She had a lot to say on the matter of accessing her favourite TV shows:
KM: Why do you use torrents/unpaid streaming services?
BC: A lot of it comes down to convenience, access to content and value for money. Australian free to air channels are notoriously slow to air international TV shows. When they do air them, they often air them out of order, or change airing times with little warning, or play previously aired episodes rather than the newest one, or they simply don’t air programmes that I’m interested in at all.
A paid TV package such as Foxtel is exorbitantly expensive for the service that is actually provided (and I’m very uncomfortable with increasing the wealth of somebody as ethically questionable as Murdoch) and it really doesn’t provide value for money. Foxtel also have exclusivity deals for shows such as Game of Thrones, so it’s not like there’s an option to purchase the show through iTunes.
With these factors in mind, as a consumer, I don’t feel that I have many other options than torrenting or unpaid streaming. Beyond that, streaming or torrenting is far easier than the current options available in Australia and there’s simply greater access to content.
I would love to have the option to gain access to content legally, however, at present, the option simply isn’t there in Australia, or if it is, it’s extremely limited or exorbitantly overpriced. The current system in Australia relies on the artificial limitation of an abundantly prevalent resource (which assumes that consumers are idiots and don’t know that there’s content that is free online) and increasingly, Australians are turning to torrenting or streaming content because they know that companies such as Foxtel are artificially limiting access to content that is freely available.
KM: How much do you know about what makes a show renewed or cancelled?
BC: Traditionally, it has been Nielsen rating system; IE- an estimate of how many viewers are watching a given TV show in a household and renewal/cancellation depended on the amount of people viewing the show.
However, social media is becoming increasingly important in determining the popularity of a show and therefore the likelihood for renewal, which is why many fans have taken to “live-tweeting” a TV show as well as using a particular hashtag (with the aim of having it trend on social media) in order to demonstrate popularity. Hashtags are now being used in conjunction with traditional Neilson scores in order to determine the renewal of programmes.
KM: Do you think the data retention scheme or any other government policies will change the way you access your television shows? If so, how?
It already has. I’ve already invested in a Virtual Private Network and I will be looking into the practicality of a service such as Netflix as an alternative to torrenting or downloading data. It’s very likely I’ll continue to download, but I’ll be more scrupulous in how often I do it and I may be more likely to use online streaming rather than torrenting.
In summary, we have some of the reasons why TV access is the way it is. I’m hoping after this small research project a larger scale version would help convince providers to allow Australians more immediate access to content. We already have to pay more to get anything else from overseas, why stop at TV?