The HBO series Game of Thrones was the most illegally downloaded programme in 2012. Twenty-four hours after the first episode of its third season aired, 1 million people downloaded illegal copies from file-sharing sites. Usually, TV networks are up in arms about piracy, but HBO seems to be more concerned that viewers aren’t going to get great quality when they download illegal episodes. If you’re a real fan, eventually you’ll get sick of poor visuals and invest money to get a great experience. You buy the DVD set. You’ll “Like” them on Facebook. It becomes the topic of water cooler chatter.
Controlling what people do is always going to be challenge, especially if the model itself is changing. People are watching TV on other screens and they are getting rid of their television sets. Five million US households don’t own a television set anymore (this up from 2 million in 2007), but rather than kill the industry, the growth in the number of ‘ZeroTV’ households has played a part in the increasing popularity of programming.
This is the golden age of television. There is Downton Abbey, Breaking Bad, The Wire, Girls and Mad Men for starters. There is variety in theme, depth in story and character, and tons of cultural tie-ins. With mobile devices, people watch TV anywhere. With streaming websites, they can watch their favorite programme whenever they want. You don’t even need to a broadcasting company to bring out full season shows. Netflix has House of Cards and Arrested Development exclusively online for our viewing pleasure, which means more choice and better accessibility for the viewer – and that looks like progress to me.