I should probably state two things right off the bat, just to set the stage. The first is that editing anything, whether it be a weekly all-comics print publication or a blog that floats a measly few thousand views a week [not a humblebrag, I know what good site traffic is], is difficult. The second is that I consider fellow Culture War Reporter Gordon one of my best friends on this planet. It’s for those two reasons that I find covering the issue of piracy, of the copyright infringement variety, so harrowing.
In writing this post I forced myself to do my due diligence and read over my co-writer’s others two articles concerning the topic, and it was truly an ordeal. While in his first there are some fairly reasonable assertions like “Some People Will Never Buy” they’re coupled with others like “Anti-Piracy Hurts the Environment”, a point that ignores outlets like Netflix and other similar legal streaming services that harm God’s green earth just as much as The Pirate Bay. The second covered the “Vindication of Piracy” predicated on an article published by the BBC. All I have to say about that is . . . covered in the lengthy comment I left on that very post, if you’d like to check it out on your own.
As you should be able to tell based on how the above paragraphs are written, I feel very strongly about this. Which should make it particularly notable when I say that due to recent events in the past week I almost agree with Gordon.
And it’s all because of Hulu.
Hulu is the most compelling argument I have ever come across that piracy is both legitimate and possibly even necessary.
Now it’s going to look like I’m talking down to you, but I just want to make everything as clear as possible.
When we watch TV we are bombarded by commercials because the networks need money [as we all do] to survive. Some of that money makes its way to showrunners and the like, and the more successful their programs are the more money, ostensibly, the network will give them, because you want to spend money on that which makes you money. Hulu is an American streaming service that allowed you to watch TV shows the day after they aired, but had them accompanied by ads, for obvious aforementioned reasons.
Things changed over the years. There once existed a premium service entitled Hulu Plus which, for a fee, allowed you to use the site to stream your shows sans commercials. You were also given access to older episodes that the service would block off, typically only allowing the five most recent to be viewed. I was fine with this. At some point Hulu decided to make it so that you had to wait a full week to watch new episodes, having last week’s episode available only once this week’s had aired. I was also fine with this.
Even more recently Hulu did away with Hulu Plus, or at least that particular nomenclature, instead instituting two separate subscription plans. How fine I am with this will be explained below.
Now essentially the Limited Commercials plan is what Hulu Plus used to be, with the marked exception that, of course, your programming will be interrupted by limited commercials. This package comes to you for $7.99, or exactly how much the commercial-less Netflix costs per month.
Never fear, however, there is also a No Commercials plan! For only $11.99, a scant four dollars more, you can catch up on episodes of Fresh Off the Boat, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, New G-
I’m sorry, what?
“A small number of shows are not included in our No Commercials plan due to streaming rights. But we’ve still made them available to you uninterrupted. They will just play with a short commercial before and after each episode. These shows are: Grey’s Anatomy, Once Upon A Time, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Scandal, Grimm, New Girl, and How To Get Away With Murder.”
That’s right, you can pay almost a dozen dollars for the opportunity to catch up on some of your favourite shows and still not be able to completely avoid advertising!
What’s worse is how long it took me to decipher how this all worked, because it gets even more complicated given the fact that some shows are “only available through your participating TV provider,” meaning that you would need to link your cable provider with Hulu to access certain stuff.
It’s a headache, and honestly, just makes me thank the Lord all the more that I am Canadian. Because Citytv gives me legal access to online streaming of shows [the day after they air on TV] such as The Muppets and Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Black-ish and even the “Hulu-exclusive” The Mindy Project, the latter of which . . .
Oof, see, this is where I get upset again, and where it becomes clear why it’s Hulu that had me this close to throwing all of my past arguments against piracy out the window-
I love The Mindy Project [enough to blog about it earlier last month when I was just getting into it] and was particularly excited for this present season. Fox had decided to drop it from its schedule and Hulu very wisely decided to snatch it up and add it to their ever-increasing programming lineup. The issue is this:
The one free episode is the Season 4 premiere. All other episodes, released one week to the next like regular television, come out locked and remain locked.
What makes me particularly incensed about this decision is that unlike Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., owned by ABC, or New Girl, by Fox, The Mindy Project is wholly Hulu’s. This show is provided to viewers behind a minimum paywall of $7.99. Compare this to Netflix, who have their own share of very high-quality original programming, charging $7.99 for whole seasons, which drop at once, and which are devoid of advertisement.
The problem here is that when it comes to the internet watching ads is paying, both literally speaking and in the mind of the average person. When the two options are to simply bring up your illegal streaming site of choice or your legal alternative the latter needs to be as enticing as possible. For many the latter is a good option because they’re easier and better to use. There’s a single link, instead of having to search through which putlocker or gorillavid you want, and everything is arranged easily with thumbnails and episode synopses, etc. Up to a point people will just deal with commercials because general everything else is a pretty good deal. Why jeopardize that?
Again, as a Canadian, I have a perfectly good option available to me. Yes, there are ads, but I deal with them because I can always mute the audio and minimize the screen. I’m not being forced to watch them, and I can always put away a few pages of a book or something in the meantime. I have no problem paying, in that particular way, for content that cost money to produce and release. That makes sense to me.
What obviously doesn’t make sense is to pay money to gain access to a show and still have to view ads on top of that. No one wants to pay twice for anything.
Ladies, gentlemen, others, I am still staunchly against piracy in pretty much all of its forms. Two of my favourite forms of media, comic books and television, survive due to audiences who are willing to pay for their entertainment, either through buying single issues and trade paperbacks or watching a few commercials. If sales dip for the former books are cancelled. When ratings fall for the latter networks decide shows aren’t pull their weight and they’re cut. Every audience member matters, and I want to support the art I want to stick around.
I say all that but with Hulu, they got me this close to saying that legal online streaming was a convoluted mess that wasn’t worth managing, and the only way I got out of that was by realizing I had a sensible local alternative sitting right in front of me.
Man, Hulu, you ****in’ up.