17 October 2005

Flash back to May… The BBC began showing their newly revised series “Doctor Who” on BBC 1 TV in the UK. I had heard about it and was slightly interested but had no method of viewing the series. I was browsing through a bit-torrent tracker one sunday morning and saw a listing of the first episode and downloaded it. Five minutes in I was hooked. Technically it was illegal, but the product was literally not available to me for purchase or viewing so my only option to view the content was an illegal download (I have since purchased the DVD’s).

Since then almost every studio has acknowledged that their biggest piracy threat now comes from illegal Bit-torrent downloads, but what have they done to stop the downloads? A few arrests in LA and NY, but that’s pretty much it.

Why not make all your content available online?

After the music industry’s success with iTunes, it seems like a no-brainer. But studios, especially upper-level executives, are notoriously tech-stupid. I daresay most of them have their assistants check their email.

Enter Steve Jobs. This past week he introduced an ipod that does video an announced that the iTunes music store would now begin selling videos and TV programs.

It was a relatively low-key announcement for the amount of change that will ensue. The aftershocks of the announcement are almost daily. The producers, actors, and directors guilds put out a joint press announcement (repeat JOINT… and these are organizations that almost NEVER cooperate) basically saying “if you think you’re doing legal downloads without paying us, you’re out of your mind”… that was thursday, less than 24 hours after the announcement. Friday brought us news that Apple and NBC Universal were in talks to put TV and other video content online.

If I was Jeff Zucker, i’d use every computer in the building to start encoding video and put everything from “Uncle Milty” to “Surface” on iTunes (iMedia?) as quickly as possible…. but that’s just me… not to mention the other studio’s back library of Films from the Universal and MGM and Paramount vaults.

But in a larger sense, this represents a major shift in TV (Can we really call it TV anymore?) video content distribution.

The BBC is now free to make a deal with Apple to put their Dr. Who episodes up as soon as they air.

And what about Captain Jack’s new series “Torchwood”? YOU MUST put those online or I will download them illegally again. John Barrowman is just too cute… John, I do this for you!!!!

Indeed it makes every country in the world a potential Hollywood and everyone with a video cam potential viewers.

But prolly the thing noone is thinking about is that it moves Quicktime into the forefront of downloaded video. Previous to the announcement, there were literally hundreds of codecs out there in the world of bittorrent… xvid, avi, on2, ogg, divx… the list goes on… and making your video actually play on your machine was an exercise in frustration. Now, as long as iTunes and QT is installed, the video will play… MP4/h264 is the standard and whenever there’s a real standard, the market always grows.

So, BBC, where’s my Dr. Who? What are you waiting for…? …you’ve had a week…