The Tale of The Missing Episode and Why Piracy is a Problem Of Hollywood's Own Making

Watching stuff legally can be tough...

Followers of Film Intel on twitter will have been bored stupid this week by my farcical attempts to procure episode five of Game Of Thrones, which I required to continue watching Season One. Non-followers of Film Intel on twitter: prepare to be regaled as briefly as I can manage. Stay with the next paragraph. It might get choppy.

Having mistakenly sent back the Blu-ray with the episode I needed to watch on to my rental company, Lovefilm, because it was mistakenly labelled as not containing that episode, I was forced to order the separate DVD; Lovefilm deeming it not possible to rent individual Blu-rays, for some unknown reason. When it arrived, the episode I needed proved to be strangely absent, a fact bizarrely traceable to a decision by HBO not to split episodes equally across Blu-rays and DVDs. Blu-ray disc three has just episode six on it, disc two had episode five. DVD disc two had episodes three and four, DVD three has episode five and six. This left me with somewhat of a problem; I now had the three Blu-rays I needed to finish the series (discs three, four and five) and one DVD it turned out I didn't need (disc two) but none of them contained my current next episode. Sending one of the discs back (the un-needed DVD) would have also proved problematic as, having been granted an extra disc by Lovefilm, returning one would not result in a new disc (the disc I needed) being sent out. I was stuck.

Now readers of the site have been bored by this saga of idiocy as well as twitter followers, I'll get to the point.

The above and what follows shows a practical example of just how stunningly ill-educated studios and TV houses are when it comes to piracy. Lets park Game Of Thrones for a second and consider illegality.

Studios contest that piracy is driven by illegal capitalism, entrepreneurs out to make a quick buck. It is not, it is driven by market demand. Studios also contest that it is driven by consumer laziness. It is not, it is driven by the desire for convenience. Studios suggest that piracy is down to an unwillingness to pay for their content. It is not, it is down to an inability to pay for their content.

The link of my Game Of Thrones quandary to piracy came when I decided to find the episode online, pay the extra for it, and solve all of my worries.

I first went to Lovefilm but, alas, no streaming of the series there.

A very concisely argued blog pointed me in the direction of Sky, who, it said, had exclusive rights to the online distribution of HBO programmes in the UK. I happen to have a Sky subscription so there were no problems there but were Sky making series one of Game Of Thrones available to watch online, just before series two started? Of course not.

iTunes then, home of innovation and modernity. Nope. HBO, home of, erm... the programme itself. HBO Go, their own streaming service, isn't available in the UK. isn't even registered in the UK.

Lovefilm, one of a growing number of options for online film and TV rentals, each of them with exclusivity deals.

Another rental company, then. Blockbuster? Cinema Paradiso? Neither seem to offer streaming packages. Certainly, neither of them offered Game Of Thrones, even if their streaming deal was cunningly hidden behind untold layers of expensively designed menus.

Netflix UK? Only OK if you want to stream a B-movie from 1973.

I had the demand, I had the drive to find it and I had the money to spend. What I didn't have was a hope in hell of obtaining Game Of Thrones, instantly, online, legally. The regular market had failed me.

Which market didn't fail me? Yup, the illegal one.

I should point out at this point that I did not watch Game Of Thrones episode five online illegally, I instead (for the sake of completing the story in the second paragraph) sent a couple of discs back (one of which I needed) to get the one I was missing. I went out of my way to be legal. I waived my consumerist right to convenience.

I don't think I've ever watched anything online illegally. I may have possessed a copied DVD or two whilst sharing a rancid house with some others, during my student days at the start of the noughties but hey, who in that time and place hasn't? The point is: if I wanted to get the episode illegally instantly I appeared to be able to. If I wanted to pay for it instantly: no chance.

Piracy isn't popping up to feed the demand of poor students any more. It is popping up to feed the demand of the educated consumer, who knows they should be being provided with a convenience and isn't. The Lovefilm disc situation is by-the-by and, partially at least, my own fault. Let's say that didn't happen but I wanted to quickly rent Season One over the weekend, ahead of Season Two starting this coming week. Could I have done? Only illegally.

Piracy fills the demand created by an inefficient industry, currently being ripped apart by separatist deals which benefit studios and rental companies, not consumers. Want to stream Dexter? Only on Netflix - you're out of luck if you've got a Lovefilm subscription. Want to watch Lost? The same, only vice versa. Guess what studios - that may be convenient to you, convenient to your bottom line and the bottom lines of Lovefilm and Netflix but me, as a consumer? I'm starting to get peeved.

Consumers - by the very definition of the word - don't mind spending money (you should know that by now Hollywood) but they get really angry when people actively stop them from doing it.

Piracy, Hollywood? Not my problem. It's yours. And it could, in large part, be very simply solved, just by giving the people what they want, when they want it, for a price we can all live with.


  1. hmmmm, I would agree (and probably do overall) but the situation is murkier and complicated in ways I'm not sure I can fathom.

    The idea of exclusivity is a sound one in theory. You can gain content that only you can grant access to and in doing so you drive customers to your site. The nature of the internet punches a hole in that concept by breaking cultural differences, communication and access making exclusivity a tired, archaic concept that serves to frustrate rather liberate.

    Personally I won't be watching Game of Thrones Season 2 as I don't have access to Sky Atlantic. I'm annoyed by Hollywood's attempts to splinter the market (look at the way WB have treated Netflix in the US) but more so by service providers such as Sky Atlantic who cannibalise the market with their exclusive deals. It's stretching consumers thin in terms of subscriptions, hiding content behing paywalls. So yes, I agree with you but I can't see the situation changing.

    When it comes to tv shows/films in their first run in the US being pirate, that's a trickier situation.

    1. There's a lot of reasons behind it and everyone will have their own examples of why they can't see things (appreciate, for example, that a lot of people are unable to watch GOT: S2 because it's on Sky) but I think they're going to increasingly force the industry to look again at the models they use. More people can/will see the product the less barriers you put in the way of them. It used to be that Sky was one of the only barriers. Now there's loads, as detailed above. At some point a studio is going to try and remove some of those barriers. It'll be interesting to see what comes of that.

  2. I assume you've seen this cartoon before, you're definitely not the only one who thinks this way.

    I personally think it's ridiculous that we in the UK work to such a hugely different release schedule to the US for so many shows. I appreciate channels like Sky Atlantic try to cut the gap between US and UK transmissions, but when films and music are released day and date worldwide it makes no sense that TV can't as well. (OK, I'm mainly thinking Breaking Bad and Community, but still.)

    1. That is both a) brilliant and b) exactly the experience I had above but no, hadn't seen that before, wish I had.

      There's not excuse for staggering, especially now it doesn't happen with a lot of things. If studios really cared about piracy they'd move to worldwide release dates and sacrifice the small amount of extra money that getting the cast to do publicity around several release dates get them. But they'd rather the consumer pay for piracy protection - through things like 3D - than shell out themselves. Again, another broken model.

  3. I love reading insightful, intelligent, and amusing observations like this on the internetsss. Thank you for making my day. (btw, I was directed to Film Intel via A Lifetime In Dark Rooms).

    1. Glad you enjoyed it, thanks for stopping by!