Game of Thrones is quickly becoming the most pirated series of all time. I was contemplating why this might be, and ended up arranging my thoughts in the following open letter.
Hi. My name’s Justin Pot, and I’m one of those “young viewers” you talk about during your meetings. I know, I know: it’s hard to think of us as individual humans with freewill instead of as statistics that determine your corporate fate, but stick with me for a moment.
I like watching some of the shows you guys put out. Community, Parks and Rec, Mad Men and Game of Thrones are among my favorites, and all add something valuable to the Zeitgeist of popular culture and bring happiness into my life.
Here’s my point: I have never, and likely will never will, pay for a cable subscription. I might be willing to pay for a few TV channels or TV shows on an al le carte basis, but you are never going to persuade me to pay for a cable subscription that includes channels I’ll never watch. Put simply: I want to pay for the content I’ll actually watch and not subsidize crappy channels or reality shows.
I know what you’re thinking: “Well, you’d never be willing to pay for any content under any circumstance, you pirate.” To which I say: yarr. Also: you’re wrong. I donate hundreds to public radio every year, something I’m not even remotely required to do. And I’d be happy to pay for access to my favorite TV shows.
You make that hard. I can’t buy any episodes from season 2 of Game of Thrones in any form right now, and online streaming is limited to those who already pay for cable. HBO: you don’t even offer an online-only option.
So here’s the deal: offer your shows on an al le carte, subscription basis and I’ll happily pay to watch them, particularly if there are no commercials.
This is usually the point where people threaten to pirate the shows unless media companies give them the deal they’re looking for. Judging by how frequently shows like Mad Men and Game of Thrones are pirated, many people make this argument.
I don’t think I have to. The truth is, if I no longer had a way to access any of your shows, my life would go on. There is plenty of free, high-quality entertainment that is in all honesty probably better for me intellectually than your content. Public radio, high quality YouTube channels like Crash Course and Ze Frank, and Ted, just to name a few. Plus I can, you know, go outside, read a book or take part in an actual conversation.
My point is this: television used to demand most of the free time of Americans. It doesn’t any longer. Piracy isn’t the primary reason for that. Social networks, gaming and online video are all eating into the time we’d previously spend mindlessly watching your content. Last year millions decided cable was no longer worth paying for. Pulling your shows from the Internet is going to change that: it’s going to make your shows irrelevant.
Piracy is not your primary enemy: the shear amount of choice we all have is. If you’re not going to make it easy for me to access your content, I’m not going to bother. I love TV, but not enough to pay for a service I don’t need.