Monday, April 07, 2008

T Dog's Think Tank: NBC encourging you to become a pirate

A deal was struck this week that may encourage people to join the Pirates.

No, not the Pittsburgh Pirates, though they need all the help they can get.

I'm talking about the world of download piracy.

NBC last week renewed Friday Night Lights for a third season. The critically-acclaimed drama has struggled in the ratings for the past two seasons on both Tuesday and Friday nights.

But there's a catch. A huge catch. The third season will appear exclusively on satellite TV service Direct TV in the fall while NBC will start airing the program in February.


That's right. NBC struck a deal with Direct TV for the satellite service to air 13 episodes, in order to share production costs.

This deal is not without precedent. Last year, NBC struck a deal with Direct TV to air the daytime soap Passions, which the peacock network canceled last season.

Your truly thinks it's great Friday Night Lights is able to come back for a third season. But I have some reservations about this deal.

Why? Well, for one thing, NBC could've put the program on USA or Bravo, for one thing, since NBC owns both networks. NBC already has new episodes of Law & Order: Criminal Intent on USA first with a later run on NBC. Don't know if that move would cut production costs, but if Monk and Psych can run on USA, then maybe Friday Night Lights could as well.

And then, think of all the poor saps who subscribe to Dish Network... No Friday Night Lights for you.

And so, fans who are shut out will now have to wait until February to watch Friday Night Lights.

Or not.

If new episodes aren't streamed on or Hulu this fall, viewers will likely resort to downloading the program illegally - via BitTorrent and other file-sharing services, which could erode NBC's viewership for the show when it comes back. The studios have been fighting against such activities, which amounts to piracy.

The bottom line is, NBC should have made a better deal than this. Now it's going to head to Direct TV, which shuts out the majority of the fans - many of which are now going to illegally download the show - making NBC Universal look like hypocrites, and further endangering the future of the show. Futhermore, this move undermines the studios' effort on combating piracy.

What is it with this Country Club mentality all of a sudden? Just because you don't have a certain satellite service, you're being shut out of your favorite TV show? Having just cable isn't good enough anymore? There should be a level of concern raised here.

But what else you expect from Ben "Bulls Ballboy" Silverman, with a 2008-09 lineup that is mediocre at best.

Some fans who don't have Direct TV are not going to wait around for Friday Nights Lights. They will find some way to get those episodes by any means necessary - except signing up with Direct TV. No one is going to get satellite or switch from cable just to watch a single TV show.

So the next time the major studios whine about illegal downloading and piracy, maybe they should whine to one of their own. After all, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

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