Saturday, July 21, 2007

Getting Western TV in Asia

One of the most challenging things about living abroad is that there is so much cultural immersion that you find you need some good old fashioned Hollywood entertainment to maintain your sanity. there is nothing like a considering the moral implications of wiping out the Cylon race, or pondering what super power I want to have that can make weary travelers feel at home again.
This is more true the farther your are from 'westernized' localities.
I was at a school in China where every single teacher was, on some level, downloading their favorite TV programs for viewing. This was not so true about movies, mainly because the files are too large for efficient downloading. It is easier to just go down and buy the DVD.

There was a story at the end of last year about how the big four networks and their corporate owners were finally realizing the shifting entertainment landscape. They began offering their content on line in streaming format. The problem is that they all restricted this steaming to IP addresses within the United States.
All the while RIAA or MPA or some such organization has been busily suing websites which aide peer-to-peer sharing of content. Some good sites that have placed their locations outside their legal reach are Isohunt, Torrenty-Spy, EZTV, among many others.

In China it is still not a challenge to get a hold of many current or recent movies on DVD. They usually run around 7 RMB. A licensed DVD in China runs in excess of 50 rmb, some as much as 70 RMB. To understand the relative cost here think about it as 1-to-1; that is $50-$70 per DVD. This is priced just too high for the vast majority of the Chinese population. At a time when there is very little beyond Hollywood that the rest of the world like about the United States, we should take advantage of this. If movies are anything, they are a form of soft diplomacy.
There is no one over here that is going to buy original DVDs. The movie companies and the RIAA are not losing a cent when it comes to download content or 'pirated' DVDs. If anything, they are building a future customer base. As the cost of living increases in this part of the world, more and more people will one day be able to afford these things at cost.

To the Hollywood entertainment companies (movie and TV) I say, turn them off now and you only serve to cut into future profits, and give them one more reason to dislike the United States.
Solution: get with the times. Put content on line yourselves. Put the TV program on line with the commercials intact. There are enough companies that do business internationally that you should be able to find a creative way get them to pay for the cost of putting the content online and leave plenty of room for a healthy profit. Streaming is nice if you have massive bandwidth, but who does. Better systems are those that pre-download content which can later be viewed.

What was the most popular TV show in China this last year. It was Prison Break. There are probably tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people in China who have seen each and every episode.

See the MPA vs. China

I had a student email me to ask whether I had noticed that the 'dropped key looked dissimilar to the one that came from so-and-so.' This is a level of watching TV that would thrill most programmers at FOX. If they cannot get CCTV to buy the program outright, than put the program out there for download with advertisements recorded into it. Make it attractive by opening up bandwidth to greater than can be offered by typical peer-to-peer sites.
DVDs seem much harder to come by in Korea. This is probably because many more people have access to high bandwidth and can simply download the programs/movies they like. Look at the market and develop a plan to suit that market. If legal, inexpensive DVDs could be had, then that is the way to go. This involves a level of involvement that puts your content out of your control. Take your programs and put them up with the commercials already plugged into them. Include subtitles in the various native languages. Those that take the content with the intention of putting it into compilation DVDs will unlikely go through the trouble of cutting out the commercials from each program. Sooner or later someone will come up with software that does this automatically but shifting commercial lengths will make this process unreliable. If you like, make it so that it can only be downloaded from IP addresses from certain countries (outside the United States, England) where there is a large market for live TV broadcasts.
This should be a no brainer. This is a way for Hollywood to take advantage of the system as it exists. This is a way for them to get past Chinese bureaucracy (see MPA vs. China above) and to turn a buck.

What is popular in China/Korea? The same things that are popular in the States minus science fiction programs like Battlestar Galactica. The popular list includes Everybody Loves Raymond, Lost, Desperate Housewives, Prison Break, Heroes, 24, Friends, American Idol, Frazier, West Wing and many others old and new. In countries where they are working overtime to learn English for its international value, TV and movies are a very popular way for students of all ages to enhance their learning. If some distributor sells one million copies of a season of Prison Break for 14 RMB (two disks), and the studio makes back nothing (but loses nothing) then who cares. But if the studio markets the product themselves, good quality with correct subtitles and extras (an interview of the stars relevant to the market your are selling the product), puts them on three disks and sells them for 24 RMB, then they stand to make at least some of that money themselves. This also puts them on stronger legal standing when it comes to government crackdowns on illegal piracy. Do this in India, China, Korea and Japan and you make a profit where before there was none.

Microsoft learned long ago the value of giving away something for "free" when it gave Internet Explorer to the world. The movie companies could learn well from them. It only take a little creativity.

For all the things HW does well, listening is not one of them. I am sure this is falling on deaf ears. Or maybe it isn't?

1 comment:

Odetta said...

Thanks for writing this.

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