LEAKED: Somebody at my favourite TV blog -- TVtattle.com -- must have let their curiosity do the (net)surfing for them, because they discovered that at least two of this fall’s big new shows have already been leaked to online file-sharing networks, months in advance of their premieres. J. J. Abrams new X-Filesesque Fringe is out there, as is True Blood, Alan “Six Feet Under” Ball’s new vampire show for HBO.
The TVtattle blogger found them on a site called Insomniac Times, whose proprietor posts about alternate energy tech and other geeky stuff along with the odd leaked file that's making its way onto sharing sites like Pirate Bay. A quick search on btjunkie revealed that both shows have already been disseminated pretty widely, with hundreds of “seeders” for True Blood alone.
Now, I realize that I’m being a naughty boy by even talking about this stuff, but the fact is that screeners get leaked all the time and if you’re really hot to see a show, either a few weeks or months after it’s aired or even just as long in advance, chances are you’ll probably be able to find it out there in the internet’s capacious grey zones. The media is usually blamed, but by the time newspapers and magazines have been serviced with sneak previews of new shows, they’ve usually already made their appearance online, put there by someone a bit higher in the screener food chain at the studios or their production and duplication houses.
Having finished product available long before it’s supposed to be broadcast – even if it’s theoretically meant for a select audience – is the real problem, since simple laws of supply and demand, not to mention human nature, means that leaks will happen no matter how much security is put in place. Lawsuits won’t work either, Hollywood homies – just ask your depressed buddies in the music business.
What’s required at this point is a whole new way of looking at production and programming. A change that’s basically revolutionary, if you’re a network executive working with a business model that hasn’t changed since Burns And Allen was a radio show. Forget broadcasting, fall debuts, even seasons; with a pilot in hand, the networks – or any producer with access to a distribution network online – can make a show available and gauge audience response accordingly, all at a fraction of the cost of producing episodes in advance of demand.
Every fall, shows fall by the wayside after just a handful of aired episodes, while even more are in the can. Networks then scramble for replacements for the now-vacant time slot -- much to the consternation of advertisers. Every year, this system looks more and more precarious and the sense of dissatisfaction and anxiety increases, while the audiences have already begun consuming programming the way they want – at their leisure. The future, at least for TV, is now – somebody just has to tell the networks.