The essay Piracy is good? explores the Battlestar Galactica phenomenon and makes a case that it has essentially destroyed the broadcast television model. The television series has been incredibly popular and has been the SciFi network’s most successful show. That’s not really cause for concern, it’s a pretty good show, the issue is how it became popular.
All 13 episodes aired on SkyOne, the BBC affiliate that partnered with SciFi to produced the show, back in October last year. Within hours, each episode made it onto the internet and into the hands of eager fans around the world, mostly through Bittorrent distribution channels. This generated a word-0f-mouth buzz that induced a lot of people to watch the US premier in January and tune-in to subsequent episodes. So, it’s an interesting new way to test out the market for a television show but it’s not really the most effective way to generate revenue for your station (who wants to download a show with commercials?).
Towards the end of the article, Mark points out that all of the ripped episodes from SkyOne had the broadcaster’s logo overlaid on the screen at all times, fairly common practice these days. That screen realestate can be ignored for the most part, but it is a constant reminder about whatever’s there. It could provide an effective means of advertising in the future, a sort of picture-in-picture thing.
Persistent advertising is nothing new, they’ve been doing it in soccer for years (unlike hockey and baskeyball, they don’t stop the clock and provide commercial time). It’s not the worst thing in the world and short of pirates blurring or blanking out the ad, you can’t really remove it from the content. In my mind it’s a step above product placement shills.
I’ve seen Battlestar Galactica, it’s damn good. Which model did I use for watching the show? The SkyOne rips of course ( I live in Canada and don’t get SciFi, so they were the next best thing). That said, the audio was pretty hollow and I can’t wait a better copy. I’d recommend the show to anyone who likes scifi, I’ll be buying it when it hits dvd. The first season is currently airing in the US. If you find yourself in my situation and already watched all the episodes, check out the production blog for some clues to where they’re headed.
Update: Part two of the article is available