Saturday, July 12, 2008

Thoughts on Viacom

A friend of mine, @edroberts, posted his thoughts on Google and Viacom to his blog and subsequently received a comment from Viacom. I added a reply to that comment that I wanted to also post to my blog. You can view Ed's post at

Actually, there are quite a few of us that know it's out there but we are unable to use it in a way that we would enjoy. There are times that we want to take shows on the road or watch them on a machine that may not be compatible with your website. We also don't want to have to go to a website to see if a new episode is available but we want to be able to use an RSS feed and download it into our network so that when we sit down to watch something it's there ready for us.

Let me share my story. I never knew who Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert was until the Net Neutrality debate arose and I caught Jon's clip on youtube regarding that issue. I instantly became a fan and over the next few weeks I became addicted to those shows. I use MythTV for watching shows and I set it up to record every show. A couple months ago Comcast really screwed their subscribers in my area over and as a result I dropped my cable TV service. I've since switched to watching shows off of sites like because I am able to program my mythtv system to look at their RSS feed and download the show. When I sit down on the couch I grab my remote and can see all of the shows that are ready for me to watch.

Your viewers are all very unique people and they have different habbits and different preferences. The one thing that we all have in common is that we want to enjoy your shows in the way that we like to enjoy TV in our own ways. Requiring someone to watch your show at their computer reduces their attention span and, quite frankly, causes many of them to bail out as soon as the first commercial hits. Now if you put that in a video stream that can be downloaded to a PVR or other device that can be connected to a TV, people are more willing to watch the commercials. I certainly know that I am. The answer is not tying people's hands and telling them how they are supposed to enjoy your content but it's allowing them to enjoy it - period. Three years ago I knew a lot of people that had the stance that music piracy was wrong but after the treatment that we have received from the RIAA I now don't know a single person that respects the legal rights of the music industry simply because the RIAA has abused those rights.

Now, I am not saying that you should not pursue the lawsuits that you think you need to but you have to understand that these clips are introducing your content to people who then start watching the full shows. The majority of the clips on YouTube are just that -- clips. I can certainly understand you fighting full episodes being put on YouTube but the majority of these incidents are not full episodes. Allowing people to view your content in ways that they enjoy only provides you with more viewers.

Another thing that I want to add is that it may not be Google's fault that people don't know about your sites. In fact, people may very well know about the sites and totally despise them. I run MacOS and generally use the Opera web browser. Your sites do not work for me. Occasionally I can open up Safari and watch a show but the performance is less than desireable. The rarity of my visits to your sites are not the result of me not knowing about them but that they just frustrate me more than what I get out of them. Also keep in mind that Google is NOT the internet. Google has shown a good effort in controlling copyrighted material and, in fact, may be doing the best job of any company I've seen so far. Their methods aren't perfect and I can understand your desire to have them strive for perfect but please keep in mind what happened when the music industry shut down Napster -- it pushed everyone somewhere else to get what they wanted and now instead of it being one place that needs to be policed you've got numerous sites devoted to doing exactly what Napster was doing. The closing of Napster encouraged pirates to be more innovative. This is the internet that you are dealing with and no matter how hard you fight there will be people that will continue to break the law. It's a sad truth but its still the truth. Instead of pushing these people more underground why not look for a compromise?

Ultimately it is your copyrights and you are entitled to control those -- that is your right. I would just encourage you not to alienate your viewers by forcing them to play by your rules and watch things the way you want them to be watched because you'll ultimately end up pushing many viewers away and many of us already have a very sour taste in our mouths from the RIAA.

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