Like all digital content problems before it, until consumers get what they really want in the television department -- raw streaming Internet television sans cable subscription -- new technologies, like the latest from Nimble TV aren't going to appease the masses. What TV watchers want is à la carte Internet-enabled show options. The ability to watch all the shows they want online, whenever they want, without paying for ones they don't want on their TV. That doesn't quite exist, with content providers instead packaging what they're already selling in some sort of Internet form. As long as someone has an HBO or Comcast account, they can access some stuff online. Or, in another form, this Nimble TV thing, according to The New York Times' Brian Stelter, takes cable channels and streams them online. These are new layers of technology people want (streaming) on top of technology people don't want (cable). And until the industry gets rid of that unwanted technology, as we've seen with other digital content types, consumers will steal what they want.
While scared cable and satellite guys are busy working with tech company to create boxes that put TV on the computer as long as consumers still buy TV, Internet pirate sites are busy fulfilling consumer demand, providing the illegal option for what they want. On sites like ATDHENET.TV, Justin.TV, Ustream, to name a few a hungry TV watcher, who doesn't want to buy a full cable subscription, full of many unwanted channels, can download endless hours of streaming TV. Even when the Fed has intervened, shutting down Mega Upload and ATDHENET's predecessor, ATDHE.NET, consumer demand is so strong for this kind of untethered streaming experience, that new, illegal sites pop up. It took only hours for ATDHE's replacement site to pop up.
Of course, beyond the freedom from cable, the free aspect of these sites is a draw for downloaders. But, as we've seen before with music, when the industry finally catches up, providing a legal, pay-model, many of the thieves migrate. Looking at the illegal music industry, before iTunes existed, Napster proliferated. Then, the industry (record companies) worked with Apple to create something that worked for them. With that first step, technology developed further, bringing us even more legal innovation with new streaming models like Pandora and Spotify. Since these innovations, music piracy has dropped, with 2011 numbers showing only 9 percent of music downloaders going to illegal sources, down from 16 percent in 2007.
The television industry hasn't quite gotten to this legal-pay model part. The new technologies are still ignoring consumer demand, still involving the cable-subscription model nobody wants. Nimble TV, for example, puts TV on the Internet -- part of the winning combination. But, it still involves the cable subscription part of the technology. That's not what anyone really, deep down wants. And, when industries don't give people what they want, people steal it. Stats from the (admittedly biased) Motion Picture Association of America say that 13 percent of Americans have partaken in illegal TV downloads. Just because everyone does it, doesn't make it right. But, until the industry stops piling technologies on top of the problem technology (cable and satellite), America's going to do it.
Image via Shutterstock by R.Ashrafov
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.