24th Aug2017

Culture Dump #5: Are the Days of Drip-Fed TV Show Releases Over?

by Simon Bland

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HBO aren’t having a great week. For starters, they’ve recently fallen victim to a massive hack. In something that’s becoming an increasingly regular occurrence, a group of unidentified cyber-bandits targeted the studio and made away with a whopping 1.5TB (i.e loads, to all non-techies) of data. Their haul was a good one too, including scripts and unaired episodes of shows like The Rock’s Ballers, Larry David’s long-awaited Curb Your Enthusiasm return plus their most popular show and well, the most popular show of them all right now, Game of Thrones.

Resisting ransom requests, the mystery hackers then made good on their promise and began leaking things online; scripts, shows, emails – the lot. Clearly a bit frazzled, HBO Spain then accidentally aired an upcoming episode of George R.R Martin’s fantasy epic a whole week ahead of its scheduled release date. It wasn’t up for long but like everything digital, that didn’t matter. Once out, it was impossible to get back. Even by Westeros standards, HBO has had a brutal few days.

However on the flip-side of the coin it’s like Christmas come early for Pirate Bay regulars. Those long waits between air-dates suddenly evaporated into thin air, leaving their favourite new shows just a click and binge away – and click and binge they did. It seems that in the process of changing the face of silver screen storytelling, HBO may have earned viewers’ ratings but not really their loyalty.

In fact, perhaps the binge model ushered in by streaming services like Netflix has changed the game more than we think. These days, punters don’t seem to mind where they get their content from as long as they get it; be it via file-sharing torrents, dodgy streaming sites or (usually the least popular option) direct from the studio that made it. After all, HBO’s crowning jewel Game of Thrones was the most pirated show of 2016, a fact that’s all too revealing.

It raises an interesting point – Have audiences evolved past the days of week-long waits between shows? Maybe we have and we’re just too stubborn to admit it. That’d certainly be true for studios, with their drip-feed method working like a free marketing machine when it comes to shows that fuel water-cooler chit-chat. Why would they throw that away? Well, maybe because audiences are clearly past it.

It’s hard to say how studios may counter these turbulent times but underneath all the hacks, leaks and binges, one thing remains constant: Today’s telly addicts want everything and they want it right now. Your move, content providers.

Love telly binging or prefer the drawn out approach? Let me know in the comments section below!

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