Online piracy debate widens digital content divide between consumers, creators

Viewers of television series and movies are still sitting on one side of a wide gap between creators and distributors of that content, if the response to a recent New York Times article about online piracy is any indication. And it may not close anytime soon, unless the industry adapts in a realistic way to consumer demand.

In viewers' eyes, that means focusing less on digital rights management (DRM) strategies--what one NYT reader likened to "building a dam in the middle of a vast ocean"--and more on getting popular content in front of viewers where and when they want it.

Content owners, of course, still face myriad licensing and technology issues when it comes to getting their series or movies to the masses. For example, uber-popular HBO series Game of Thrones is held behind the premium channel's pay-TV subscription requirement. Yet it routinely racks up a record number of illegal downloads after an episode airs.

Likewise, free-to-air channels like Fox have long offered, on their TV Everywhere apps, a limited selection of their currently airing shows.

That reluctance to put more content online to both pay-TV subscribers and non-subscribers has hampered the growth of TV Everywhere and likely plays a role in the continuing popularity of pirated content, as viewers turn elsewhere to access their favorite shows.

It's a trend that's beginning to turn: ABC Television Group last week released an expanded version of its Watch ABC app and gave app users a free preview of the premiere of its popular series, Once Upon A Time.

Meantime, some viewers, while acknowledging in comments to the NYT that piracy was certainly illegal, felt that crackdowns and punishments were too harsh. "Bankers committed huge scams that brought the economy of the U.S. crashing down all around us, yet not one of their homes were raided," one reader commented.

For more:
- the New York Times has this article (tiered sub.)

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