Streaming and the world

Fred Wilson wrote a post on how streaming and easy availability of content via streams can/will kill piracy via the torrent download. I largely agree. And especially for movies and TV shows I think people are even willing to pay to get instant access rather than download a torrent and wait an undefined period to get the file.

However, what happens globally? I’ve been in India for a few months. I can’t watch any Netflix stream here. I can’t watch Hulu. If I wanted to, I would have to go through a US proxy server that slows things down tremendously and even that does not work for Netflix. If the customer is a US customer but is traveling globally, these restrictions are simply ludicrous. I live in New York City. My Netflix account is tied to my address in Manhattan. I am still paying the monthly fee. And just because I am out of the country I am no longer a valid customer? Ridiculous.

I understand there are convoluted rules governing global rights. But the content creators should also realize that in today’s connected world, the audience for any piece of content is global. Excluding the situation of a traveling user (which is a no-brainer), here’s a very simplistic solution to the problem

  • Let’s assume the rights for a certain TV show or movie, that is created in the US, are sold in India. A viewer from India arrives a US site showing the movie. The site should let the viewer watch but share a certain % of the revenue with the rights owner in India. Clearly the rights owners in India have failed to provide the customers in the country access in a timely and/or user-friendly way. Why should the end-user be punished? Why should the content creator be punished by having fewer viewers. Distributors get your act together! Get stuff out to users in your country on-time. Get the content out to them in a way they want to watch it. Otherwise be okay with a provider in another country doing this.
  • If the rights in a certain country are not sold, then the users can view the content without the streaming site having to worry about reverting payment. If US site makes money via advertisements, and the advertisers don’t care about a global audience, then either make the user pay a fee or let them watch for free and build brand loyalty.

Same thing applies to an Australian movie and a viewer in the US. The locations of content creator and viewer are irrelevant.

Content wants to be global. Why should the viewer be concerned about rights in each country? Even brands are becoming more global every day – why should Hulu be a US brand? YouTube isn’t. It is really time for a new model. In future, my hope is that content creators and rights owners forget the country-by-country rights sale model. Just put the movie online, let the whole world watch it, collect your money. Much more efficient, elimination of months of negotiations, everyone is happier. Some content creators are starting to do this. It is time more jumped on the bandwagon.