The down­load threat

Finweek English Edition - - Communications & technology - BENE­DICT KELLY

SHAR­ING MU­SIC over the In­ter­net is a long-es­tab­lished prac­tice, and mu­sic com­pa­nies world­wide are try­ing their best to elim­i­nate any­one and ev­ery­one that may be us­ing their com­puter and high-speed In­ter­net con­nec­tion to down­load ev­ery new song re­leased so they can lis­ten to it on their iPod.

For own­ers of other con­tent the threat is not as se­vere in terms of scale but even more dan­ger­ous in terms of the po­ten­tial ef­fect on their busi­ness. It’s al­ready pos­si­ble to down­load the latest films and TV se­ries from file-shar­ing net­works such as bittor­rent and other sys­tems.

While the film in­dus­try has a num­ber of ini­tia­tives to coun­ter­act that and is par­tially shel­tered by the fact that the file size of a film makes down­load­ing – even over a high-speed line – an ar­du­ous task.

TV shows – such as 24, Grey’s Anatomy or Des­per­ate House­wives – weigh in at a file size that even the slow­est broad­band users in SA could man­age.

That poses a unique chal­lenge for both ex­ist­ing and fu­ture South African TV op­er­a­tors. As TV se­ries are typ­i­cally aired in SA months af­ter they’re broad­cast in the US, it’s pos­si­ble for broad­band users to down­load high def­i­ni­tion copies of a se­ries days or even hours af­ter it airs in the US.

Astrid Hamil­ton, an­a­lysts at re­search firm BMI-T, says that due to the low pen­e­tra­tion of broad­band in the SA mar­ket and a lack of so­phis­ti­ca­tion among users, down­load­ing is re­stricted to a small num­ber of peo­ple.

That view is echoed by Ger­dus van Ee­den, chief tech­nol­ogy of­fi­cer at Mul­tiChoice, who says that while down­load­ing doesn’t cur­rently pose a threat to the SABC it’s likely to do so in the fu­ture.

How­ever, as one broad­band user who reg­u­larly down­loads TV shows points out, much of the con­tent that he down­loads is al­ready shared through an in­for­mal net­work of friends with con­tent burned on to CD or DVD and then passed around.

He adds that he down­loads be­tween 30Gb and 40Gb of con­tent a month de­pend­ing on what’s avail­able. “If the US isn’t in peak sea­son, then there are a lot of re­runs on and there­fore not much to down­load,” he says.

The one so­lu­tion to the down­load­ing prob­lem would be for SA broad­cast­ers to show con­tent at the same time as the orig­i­nal net­works in the US. But even that poses a prob­lem.

Jan du Plessis, head of pro­gram­ming at MNet, says that the peak sea­son in the US is over the South African sum­mer, when lo­cal view­er­ship is at its low­est. “If we were to start closer to the US then we’d be ef­fec­tively burn­ing good con­tent and many of our cus­tomers would miss episodes of their favourite shows.

“There are also of­ten ex­tended pro­duc­tion breaks dur­ing the run of a sea­son. For ex­am­ple, Lost Sea­son 2 had a seven week break, some­thing that SA au­di­ences aren’t used to.”

Those fac­tors play into the hands of the tech­nol­ogy savvy who may want to watch episodes as they air in the US.

Hamil­ton ex­pects there will be some har­mon­i­sa­tion in broad­cast dates, be­cause the ef­fects of glob­al­i­sa­tion will be felt in all ar­eas of creative con­tent.

It ap­pears that the moral is­sue of piracy tends to get shoved aside when it comes to down­load­ing TV pro­grammes. One down­loader says he didn’t even think of it from that view­point, as it was more about be­ing hooked on a par­tic­u­lar se­ries and want­ing to be up to date with what’s hap­pen­ing.

An­other down­loader com­ments that he had no moral prob­lem with lift­ing con­tent that was aired on free-to-air ser­vices in the US and that he paid his DStv subscriptions, ir­re­spec­tive of what he down­loaded.

As broad­band pen­e­tra­tion con­tin­ues to im­prove and net­work speeds in­crease, down­load­ing is go­ing to be­come more of a prob­lem for broad­cast­ers in SA, and when broad­cast­ing reg­u­la­tor Icasa is­sues more PayTV li­cences later this year – and pro­grammes are spread over a num­ber of net­works – the urge to down­load may be­come over­whelm­ing.

The abil­ity of SA’s broad­cast­ers to coun­ter­act that threat is lim­ited by their re­la­tion­ship with their in­ter­na­tional con­tent providers and ef­forts at a world­wide level to shut down the ser­vices pro­vid­ing that type of shar­ing.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.