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Opinion: TV networks vs ISP - the bunfight continues

By Patrick Pilcher, Thu 9 Apr 2015
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Sometimes the stupidity of executive group-think  leaves me speechless.

I’d recently written a story stating the obvious, namely that going after ISPs in order to kill off global mode will achieve nothing.

People, deprived of a global mode option will instead switch to alternatives such as other VPN services and downloading. In the minds of many, anything has to be better than watching the reality TV rubbish being inflicted upon them by the TV networks.

Details of the TV networks legal threats have also surfaced. A letter sent by the TV networks to BNS (the creator of global mode technologies) gives them until 5pm on April 15 to pull the plug on Global mode. The letter also stipulates that they publicly acknowledge the global mode service was illegal. It appears that failure to comply will see things heading into court.

The television networks say that Global Mode is undermining the value of the exclusive rights bought at considerable expense by New Zealand broadcasters.

Legally the networks may have a point, but then again the law can also be a complete ass - especially when simpler solutions are available.

Perhaps some simple questions need be asked and answered.

Wouldn’t it be a prudent move to attempt to understand why people are seeking alternatives over broadcast TV?

I’d wager that this isn’t rocket science. Much of broadcast TV content in New Zealand is actively driving people to online alternatives.  Frightfully dull and vacuous current affairs plus endless episodes of brain –dead, trashy and dull reality TV desert island kitchen bogan housewife Batchelor survivor shows are so bad that they’re driving many people to online alternatives rather than shedding IQ points watching these shows.

Here’s a radical idea - air content people actually want to watch on a timely basis. Gosh darn it, doing so could see more people watching TV and less seeking online alternatives.

Maybe I’m just talking too much common sense. It appears I am not the only one who is riled by the the pythonesque nuttiness of this situation. CallPlus have just issued this statement which provides an eloquent summary of the situation:

“Callplus, and its subsidiaries Slingshot, Orcon and Flip, strongly believe that access to the internet via Global Mode is completely legal.

The threat of legal action by TVNZ, Mediaworks, SKY and Spark is merely an attempt to restrict consumer choice in favour of their profits.

These companies want to control the internet. They want to restrict what Kiwis can do online.

To claim it’s a business to business issue is nonsense. This is an issue that impacts every Kiwi consumer. These four large corporates want to dictate what you can watch, when you can watch it, and how much you pay for it.

We are in an era of change. The traditional TV model is changing. These companies need to change with it.

Trying to restrict what you do online is old school non Internet thinking, and shows just how out of touch they are.

The Kiwi public are behind us – just look at the comments on news articles over the past days. These companies need to listen to their audience, and work harder to give consumers what they want.” 

The days where TV networks were the only game in town are long over.  There’s no going back. Even if the TV networks should win (and it is very possible that they could), they could still ultimately lose.

There are a huge number of ways to get hold of TV shows online. Most of these shows are available months before they air locally in New Zealand. Many will never air here, as the market is just too small or the economics of buying the content just doesn’t stack up.

Cranking out formulaic reality TV shows and increasingly tabloidy current affairs shows are cheap. Many reality TV shows are also little more thinly disguised bogans meet challenges between prominent product placements/adverts, so they’re easy to make money from.

But there is one small problem. If no one is watching them advertisers won’t pay, and it all comes crashing down.

The fact of the matter is that as long as TV networks continue to believe they can dictate to viewers what they watch, a growing number of people will turn their backs on the networks, instead heading online.

Assuming TV networks don’t change their ways (they’re shown no inclination towards change so far), this will probably happen regardless of any legal plays made against ISPs.

Perhaps the only ways to avoid this would involve either preventing people from going online, effectively taking New Zealand back to a pre internet stone age.


The networks could simply try to supply shows that people actually want to watch, doing so on a timely basis, at an affordable price. 

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