While you’re watching “Grey’s Anatomy” online for free this week, first ponder why you’ve lowered your standards and then take a moment and think about this: Not one writer, actor, director or key grip is getting a cent of profit as you sit and enjoy your McDreamy pleasure.
Three weeks ago, I wrote about the transition of television to the online world, while noting the depressing fact that family time will now be segregated into separate rooms as each family member watches their own shows online. This week, however, a New York Times article with the following Russell Crowe quote changed everything: “I do charity work, but I don’t do charity work for major studios.” Believe it or not, but Al Gore’s Internet is tearing Hollywood apart.
What’s more frightening is the fact that the major studios are now begging for food as budgets skyrocket because of piracy and the transition to online. Our super-speed lives unfortunately never get to stop and notice what’s going on with this transition, but it’s far more drastic than you think. The way studios shoot film is changing from tape to disk, the idea of “prime time” is becoming “convenient online time” or “convenient TiVo” time and the way we view all of this new media isn’t through a simple “boob tube,” but rather through a home theater, iPod, cell phone and, of course, the computer.
All of this wonderful and convenient new media is unfortunately causing one seemingly inescapable effect: who owns what? When I have “V For Vendetta” on PSP video, iPod video and DVD, three different companies are getting paid, but who’s keeping track of royalties to the people who really matter? Writers and directors are trying their best to get iTunes to hand over some cash for T.V. shows or, recently added, movies downloaded. Add on top of this mess the unstoppable world of piracy and you’re look at billions of dollars being lost every episode or film you watch.
The anonymous, uncontrollable world of the Internet has always warned of such problems, but studios were never quite ready for what they are experiencing now. When Russell Crowe is offered less money than ever before from a major studio, you know they’re not trying to get him cheaper for more profit; they simply can’t afford him.
But why are the studio Web sites not offering fully downloadable episodes when sites like Google and programs like iTunes are offering these downloads for 99 cents? For some reason, the studios are demanding they get paid for these payable downloads while they won’t even try to make money themselves.
Statistics from Oct. 27 show that the trend certainly isn’t dying, which means we can assume Hollywood is shivering in fear while excited at the new opportunities. Of the approximate seven million online television viewers, practically all of them are either streamed or downloaded free episodes with “very few” choosing to pay. Also interesting to note is that the top two reasons people choose online television is because of the extreme cutback in commercials and the convenience of pausing to make dinner or simply watching an episode whenever you want. The future is convenience and if Hollywood doesn’t change their game plan quick, they might lose their audiences faster than they can say “RIAA” (which, lucky for them, takes a long time to say).
The “anywhere, anytime” trend and theme of convenience are sure to stay. It’s up to Hollywood to find a solution to piracy, getting paid and dominating on every possible screen that technology might bring us.
“Grey’s Anatomy” isn’t free; the transition from television to online television is costly and not even McDreamy can afford the losses to come. It’s up to you now, Hollywood; your writers are on strike and right down the street the music industry is holding on for dear life.