“As soon as you limit access, piracy increases,” pointed out Boxee CEO Avner Ronen in a talk at the NAB in Las Vegas on April 17. Locking up content behind excessively expensive paywalls or withholding content for too long behind exhibition windows may just encourage audiences to find their own access solutions. This should be common sense, yet it sounds radical at a forum like the National Association of Broadcasters.
Ronen went on to explain,
“We’ve seen in other industries the best way to combat piracy is to make content available and to create a great experience around it.
“I think the more dangerous thing for the industry, if you limit access to your content, is now there’s so much new content coming over the top, whether it’s YouTube or directly from artists and creators and people going on Kickstarter and getting funded directly by their audience. … If you make it too hard to get access to your content, if you don’t engage with your customers, either they’ll pirate it or worse, they’ll watch something else.”
Now the irony here is that Ronen was explaining this to broadcasters!
Broadcasting, since the 1920s or so, was the original version of the give-content-away-make-money-from-advertising business model. Although ad-supported broadcasting was invented in part because there was no way to force audiences to pay for signals, and there was political resistance to taxing audiences to subsidize programming, nonetheless it proved to be an effective business model for decades.
Yet Ronen seemed to be on the defensive, expressing sympathy for the broadcasters incensed by Aereo‘s threat to the business model of retransmission fees.
Ronen offered that the pie is getting larger, not smaller:
“There are going to be more audiences watching more video on more screens, a lot of new business models, a lot more people watching more stuff and being able to pay for it. I think eventually it’s going to be the best thing that’s ever happened to the media business but I think it’s going to take a while. In the meantime I hope the transition will not be too painful for the media business.”
Let’s hope broadcasters paid attention!