Business Models Reflections

TV via iTunes

Ugly Betty / Justin
Credit: flickr / Litandmore

I’ve never bought any music on iTunes. I’ve long resented the fact that it’s nearly as expensive as buying a CD, and I don’t have the physical CD to put in my car or just to have in case of a computer crash. But not that long ago, I started renting, and then buying movies on iTunes.

Typically, I don’t watch a lot of TV. However recently, I’ve been ill, so I’ve been watching a lot of TV shows. I find them better for distraction than movies because the characters are more developed, I become more invested in what’s happening to them.

Everyone I know gets frustrated by DRM. My iTunes is locked to my British credit card, so even though I live in Canada I have to wait longer for the next episode of Brothers and Sisters. A season costs about the same as a DVD, but I had to buy an external hard-drive for storage. It’s not fair. We know we’re being screwed by the studios, and so we find away to watch the things we want to see online, for free. The studios do have a comeback, though. They can cancel.

The penultimate episode of Ugly Betty was an extraordinary, touching, sympathetic handling of a boy coming out to his family. It was a show that I enjoyed because – I’m a girl in computer science. I know about feeling like you don’t fit in. It’s been running for four years – four years that I’ve also been figuring out who I am and the balance in my life.

Lipstick Jungle, Cashmere Mafia, were like Sex and the City – women trying to find balance in their lives. The trade-offs between career and family. Ran for two seasons and one season, respectively. Samanath Who – a smart, funny, look at reinventing yourself. Canceled after two seasons.

So I’ve started paying the ridiculous prices to watch shows on iTunes. I bought all four series of Brothers and Sisters. Because even though I know it’s over priced, that the marginal costs are zero… in this stand-off between consumers and The Man, what’s going to be lost are the funny, sympathetic TV shows that capture and critique the state of now.

I remember when showing two men kissing on TV was taboo, so that penultimate episode of Ugly Betty? That’s history. And I feel like if every show with potential gets canceled after a season or two we’re going to lose that commentary – because there was four seasons of build-up – of the characters and the situation – before they showed that moment. And yes, we’ll still have the internet and more user-generated-content than we can ever hope to watch… but personally, I’m not convinced that will be a satisfactory replacement.