Strategist, Speaker, Designer, Instigator

You can’t always get what you want [post 39/100]

Since I’m at MIPTV this week, I’ve got media on my mind. Thus, the next couple of posts are going to be focussed on the television world…

I’m pretty sure most of the people reading this watch movies or TV series online, right? You’ve probably got Amazon/LoveFilm/Netflix/something else and you stream the content. They’re really catching on, these OTT services. I pay for subscriptions to 4 video services across 3 countries but then I’m a bit of an early adopter. The thing is, when I actually want to watch something, I almost always end up having to watch it illegally.

A couple of years ago I wrote a little rant about how difficult it is to find someone who’s willing to take my money for the content I want to watch. I’m sad to say that since then, despite the fact that several new services have launched or expanded into Europe, things have not gotten much better.

I am an Amazon Prime subscriber in both Germany and the UK. I also have Netflix and Hulu accounts. But German Amazon video is largely useless to me because everything’s dubbed. If I’m in the UK, everything’s fine but I’m away as often as I’m there. So in order to use any of these services, I have to use a VPN, which slows download times and makes the whole experience that much less pleasant. It’s faster to just find a pirated stream of the DVD somewhere. I continue to pay for the services because I do think content creators have a right to get paid for the things they make, but I’m starting to wonder if they’re ever going to get their shit together.

Even more maddening are the completely ridiculous anti-piracy measures that cripple the content I buy. A few weeks ago, I held a little 30th anniversary screening of The Breakfast Club chez moi in Berlin. I decided, in honour of the occasion, to buy a brand new HD version of the film. So off to iTunes I went (through a VPN of course), paid my £8 and waited for the download. A few friends came round, we had dinner and then I set up my home cinema, which consists of my laptop, a projector and a large vintage 60s silver screen on a tripod. I plugged in and started the film and… got a message informing me that my projector was not an apple-sanctioned device. We wound up watching a pirated stream.

If I could be bothered to go to the trouble, I’d demand my money back. I mean, what kind of bullshit is this? I’m in my home and I’ve just paid for a film but I can’t watch it because Apple hasn’t approved my kit. It would be funny if it weren’t so irritating and sad.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has trouble finding ways to legally get the content I want to consume. I’m also sure I’m not the only one who would be willing to pay a fair price for that content – I am, in fact, paying for it, though I’m not sure how many others are willing to pay for services they can’t use most of the time.

I know that rights frameworks are a convoluted nightmare to cope with and that change is a difficult thing for the media world to accept. But with all the pressure everyone’s under to turn a profit, I’d have thought giving audiences the opportunity to pay for content would be more of a priority by now.

More on this topic tomorrow.