Paying for TV on Internets

by Irma Arkus

Today’s big news (do we even have news any more?) is that Hulu announced cash for content in 2010.

This remarkably stupid idea of exchanging content that is virtually delivered for free through advertisements, as suddenly something that can be flogged for money, is an outcome of a failing industry attempting to not only bounce back, but make a lot of extra cash while doing it.

It is understandable that there is an exchange of money somewhere, but isn’t the Internet a better, savvier and more targeted delivery of content than any TV network available? Thus far, networks have been charging advertisers for making viewers available to see their product placements. But now, the TV productions are attempting to sell actual content rather than advertisements…and that, my friends, is INSANE.

The reason why radio and television became as popular as they did in the first place was because the content was free. That, and the fact that some of it was quite informative.

These days, Television as we know it is practically drowning in obscurity. While digitizing of traditional signals has created extra spaces on bandwidth, the entry to these spaces is still relatively pricey.

But it is only a matter of time until these signals become nest for more reality shows, dead end comedies and nostalgia reruns. I am personally awaiting the “bringing back the 1920s” channel. And I sincerely hope it is clustered between foot fetish channel and more pr0n.

BBC for example is planning to engage in independent content distribution over its already available players. However, currently the content from BBC is strictly reserved as based on country lines. It has however awakened to the fact that many people outside UK are following faithfully some of their more popular programs. Dunno if you have been paying attention, but the sudden influx of British actors as protagonists of most of top 5 network shows, is not an accident, but rather an outcome of global audience paying more than lip service to some unique UK productions.

The outrageous part though, is how much BBC intends to charge for their content. According to a Telegraph article: “executive say that global audiences would be prepared to pay $10 for an episode of hit programmes like Torchwood.”

Do ignore the spelling / grammar errors in this article, but pay attention to this remarkably eccentric statement – they are willing to charge us up to $10 per episode of something as low budget as Torchwood.

While Hulu and BBC are counting money that they haven’t made yet, one should wonder whether this particular model is applicable to current economic recession, when everyone is cutting down on all extras, especially the entertainment costs. However, I do not wish to discount this model either. Apple for example, is doing wonderfully with its iTunes, so people are obviously prepared to pay a minimal fee for watching an episode of a show. But then those numbers, yes, iTunes numbers, still fail to live up to downloads of torrented or online streamed episodes of these same shows. The discrepancy between the two is so large that many critics are demanding that they be taken into account when calculating ratings.

My point is, either you have ads, and we get it for free. Or you make us pay for it, and we own it, play it endlessly and watch it ad-free.

How do you like to watch your TV? [Telegraph