No, it’s not some giant mishmash between the AMC’s TV series version of The Walking Dead and Neil Gaiman’s American Gods (though I would pay to see that), I’m writing today about my hopes and fears for the TV adaptation of Gaiman’s novel. After having the TV rights for quite some time, HBO’s televisual rights to American Gods recently lasped and now FremantleMedia North America have got the rights.
I’m glad HBO are no longer working on a TV series based on American Gods. Why? For those of you who don’t know: in the UK, all HBO programmes can only be broadcast by BSkyB owned channels i.e. Sky Atlantic. And guess who recently agreed to another five years of exclusivity? Yeah, that’s who. With FremantleMedia handling American Gods there’s now a real chance that UK broadcast rights won’t be grouped under some confining exclusivity deal. Personally, I’m hoping Channel 4 can get their mitts on it or maybe even Netflix UK.
But what does any of this have to do with the TV series of The Walking Dead? Well in case you haven’t heard episode 74 of Nerds Assemble, or read it elsewhere, Channel 5 in the UK have decided to drop screening AMC’s hot bit of bloody telly. This has left UK viewers with the situation of subscribing to the ever so expensive Sky service or one of the few other providers who leech off of Sky broadcasts (and cost users more than a LoveFilm or Netflix subscription), waiting forever for the DVD/Blu-ray release or… pirating, if they want to avoid spoilers.
Have you heard about how Game of Thrones is one of the most pirated TV shows out there? While there’s probably many who can’t be bothered to pay, there is a growing number of people in the UK who don’t want to feed the Murdoch empire, and what with it being a HBO show and Sky having a significant number of shares owned by… You get the picture. I’ve written a bit about this previously here. And one of the other huge factors that drives piracy is inconvenience: people pirate more when legit avenues are harder to access or near non-existent.
When you want it
And because HBO apparently likes to build buzz for shows nearly right before the next season airs, DVD/Blu-ray releases of their shows tend to be released in February… Just before the new season starts. And they’re pretty bad at allowing third parties to distribute their content. The previous season of GoT finished in June in the UK. I have yet to understand how that really does do them any good, releasing physical copies so late – they miss Christmas and again leave pirating a more tempting prospect.
Conversely to all of this, Netflix produced House of Cards has recently had its second season made available in the US and in the UK it’ll be available on the on-demand service this Valentine’s Day. The entire season. All of it. To watch when you want it, where you want it. Once I’m done with some of my retrospective work, I’ll be firing up my account in order to view it when I want it.
Now, I’m not saying that everything should go on-demand (though it probably would help cut piracy rates further), but I do think the broadcast subscription model is becoming increasingly archaic. Production and distribution companies need to be looking to more varied release avenues if they still want to make money, which last time I heard is the main thing they want to do. (And fingers crossed that FremantleMedia end-up distributing American Gods through international channels that will discourage piracy, because they make watching the shown convenient. Oh yeah, and you should totally read the novel if you haven’t before.)