When I was young and didn't have any money, piracy was how I could afford to watch what I wanted. But then I became an adult with a job, and paying money became a much more convenient way to watch what I wanted. I don't *completely* dismiss the ease-of-access argument, I think it contributes, but yes the big driver of piracy is people not having lots of money but still wanting to watch things.

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I've just accepted that there's some stuff I may never see. Five bucks here, five bucks there for a subscription to a service just to watch one hot show just doesn't make sense to me.

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I think its almost inarguable windowing is existential for theatres, but its not likely on its own to stop or reverse their decline. Studios can't just double-down on a strategy almost assured to see negative growth. Piracy may skyrocket upon home release, but they guarantee what revenue it does generate is drastically kneecapped by not being able to capitalize on the very short window of attention span in our overcrowded media environment where new releases generate cultural chatter.

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Mar 10, 2023·edited Mar 10, 2023

The vast majority of pirates are indeed just cheapskates; absent the availability of pirated content some fraction of them would indeed just pay for the content. But there are also people who pay for streaming services but still "pirate" their shows anyway because the streaming user experience is vastly inferior to renting VHS tapes, not to mention playing a high-quality DRM-free digital file in the manner of the viewer's choice.

There is a great write up about how terrible the user experience is for streaming apps (https://hypercritical.co/2022/02/17/streaming-app-sentiments) that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Content owners use streaming platforms a) to steer users towards the cheapest / most profitable content and b) to collect data on viewers' habits. They will never, ever allow a third-party app to deliver the kind of unified experience of a content-manager like Plex, Jellyfin, Kodi, etc. pointed at a pile of digital files. And because they have a monopoly over (most of) their catalog, there is no competitive pressure to make the experience better (only to make better shows; see, piracy).

To stream a show you must first remember which streaming app to open. Then you have to use whatever terrible device has been blessed with the appropriate DRM to allow you to use said app. (Bonus, if you use the in-built OS of your TV you are being spied on by the content owner *and* the data broker your TV's manufacturer sells your data to.) Once the app is open, you have to recall the quirks and proclivities of the app:

Netflix will do its best to disorient you by playing clips of shows you don't watch while you stab at your remote until you find the right sequence of widgets to navigate back to the show you are actually watching. Oh, but you can just search for what you want, right? LOL, the search feature just leads you to more shows you don't want to watch—did it get pulled from Netlix or was I one character off with my search phrase?

Disney+ will throw an unhelpful grid at you that includes the misleading "continue watching" row—misleading because what it means is "continue watching the seven minutes of credits of the last show you watched". Want to find a specific movie or show? The search feature somehow manages simultaneously to return too many and too few results, none of which match the exact title that you meticulously typed. (Something most Americans probably have never experienced: download a Disney+ show to your phone in the tiny European country in which you live, get on a plane and be met with "Content not allowed, re-download in this country".)

HBO Max loads sometimes. And occasionally, after a cumbersome romp through a clumsy UI the show you load actually plays... after the fourth time you force quit the app and try again.

Anyway, the point isn't that bad user experiences are driving everyone to piracy. But as much as we like to talk about how precious the theater-going experience is because it is all about The Experience*, there seems to be this assumption that we're so grateful that we can finally watch a movie on the toilet that we'll happily tolerate an actively hostile user experience right up to and including "sorry this HDMI cable isn't compatible with DRM so you can't plug your laptop into the TV to watch the movie you just paid to rent".

* I saw Avatar 2 in 3D iMAX and it was glorious. It will never be as good in another format—in fact, I'm pretty sure it is a mediocre movie, but it is one heck of an Experience.

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I'm not sure this really refutes the "ease-of-access" argument.

The ease of access argument was never really suggesting that piracy occurs primarily because people find it hard to find media legally. That's obviously false. The most pirated content has always been the most popular content, and that content has been universally available in nearly every big box store in the world. The ease of access argument is all about friction. The more friction in between legal access and the viewer, the more likely they are to pirate.

When it comes to music, we've massively reduced piracy, because almost every streaming platform has almost every song. So you can pick between Apple Music, Spotify, Prime Music, etc and only really need the one.

Video, on the other hand is different. There's very little overlap between streaming service libraries, and most people feel that adding a new streaming service is a massive amount of friction. You have to see if the app is compatible with your TV/phone/computer, create an account, provide payment info, make sure to cancel if you don't want to continue after the trial, etc..

For some people, it means we just don't watch the show. For others, it means they turn to piracy. But the ease of access problem persists because the film industry has not followed the music industry in consolidating content and reducing friction (for better or worse).

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Agreed. Just commenting on why so many choose to pirate-- especially young folks w/o resources who grew up on open access internet and (apparently,) see it as a right.

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I don't get where the WBD crowd got the idea of dropping HBO to make MAX!!! (with the exclamation marks to come I'm sure) to be a good idea. If anything, I suspect it will generate not only more confusion on the part of their customers, but they'll end up changing it back because people will start canceling the service since it doesn't have the HBO branding (that they trust!) on it anymore

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I can't tell what the primary argument is here. That windowing is good or that piracy is bad.

I get the feeling the primary argument is windowing is good because its the only way to extract money before the dirty pirates can get ahold of it. Maybe that is true but it would be shocking to me if there weren't other ways to extract money besides windowing. Obviously that wouldn't save many of the theaters if they are entirely dependent on windowing but I'm not sure windowing is what is best for me the consumer so.... I'm okay with that. Should I not be?

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I don't know that "cheap" is quite the word you're looking for. There are plenty of folks on (extremely,) limited budgets (students, oldsters on Social Security, the disabled. . .) who live alone or isolated, can't get to a theater, and on top of an already expensive monthly subscription fee simply cannot justify forking out $20 for a one-person, one-time play of a reasonably current film (cough, cough, Tar.) If that means waiting until it comes to the free or "cheap" subscription lineup, (or for those without the bandwidth to stream it online,) so be it. Poverty begets piracy.

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Mar 10, 2023·edited Mar 10, 2023Liked by Sonny Bunch

i remember back when i was in high school and college, a lot of my peers would say that they were pirating content to "stick it to the man". i remember thinking to myself, even back then, that i would have had a lot more respect for them if they just admitted they pirated because they just didn't want to pay for the movies and music they were pirating.

and i'm sure a lot of those same people who now have YouTube channels complain about people using adblockers. funny that

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Mar 10, 2023Liked by Sonny Bunch

Warner Brothers thinks "HBO" is a drag? What the deuce? There's been plenty of content on HBOMax that my wife and I gave a chance because, "well, if HBO made it, there's a good chance that it's good". HBO, Amazon, and Apple have consistently farted out enough good to phenomenal content that the names themselves provide a certain measure of reassurance. HBO's namesake literally invokes the opposite reaction to a potential show made and aired on CBS or Fox (ugh).

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