"Did torrents kill SGU?" ..and deeper philosophical questions.

I saw that headline on an article somewhere, the premise being that people who downloaded a torrent of the show rather than actually watch it on television brought the ratings down sufficiently to cause its cancellation.

**-----> **I don’t necessarily want to debate that question itself. It’s certainly possible; but there’s no way to know. I myself watched every single episode the next night on Hulu —a website that legitimately had the right to carry the show one day later, with commercials— because I don’t own a TV and don’t have cable TV service. But I loooved it, and I was sorry to see it go.

What I want to discuss hopefully is the paradigm itself. I can’t even stand to watch broadcast TV because the proportion of commercials to actual content is just way over the top these days, it’s ridiculous. It’s approaching half of every hour. I’m sure that a big reason among the variety of reasons people download torrents of TV shows, is that many others feel the same way.

So, what if we just become unwilling to put up with the level of advertising we are forced to endure today? Remember, the original idea of “pay television” was that you wouldn’t have to put up with commercials at all! People at the time that cable TV was introduced were like, “Why should I pay for something I can get for free?” And the cable stations said, well, no commercials. Remember?

What other ways could we do things? Is it possible at all to do away with commercial interruptions, and still have a viable system that works?

Would it work if, say, monthly cable fees were double? Or if there was a two-tier fee system, one with commercials, one without? Or will advertisers never give up their stranglehold on the vast captive audience of television viewers?

  1. I would guess SGU died because it was a niche show on a niche channel. I didn’t even know what SGU stood for until I googled it - and I’m only assuming here that we’re talking about Stargate Universe, not St. George’s University.

  2. And by “niche channel”, I mean “a channel in the midst of one of the worst rebranding efforts ever conceived.” “Syfy” is not hip and hip people do not watch it.

  3. And I say this as someone who has Firefly and B5 on coming up shortly on her Netflix queue.

  4. That said, no, I don’t think torrenting entered into it, anymore than I think evil pirates are hurting the music and game sales.

  5. But to your question about the advertising - the thing is, advertising doesn’t just make money for the advertisers by increased product awareness. It also provides funds for shooting the show in the first place. If advertising died altogether (and I wouldn’t mind a bit) - studios would still need a way to find funding to create their product.

  6. I don’t know what the answer is for an alternative source of entertainment funding for the studios. However, I know that I would not pay double my current cable bill, which is already ridiculous. I would cut cable entirely and just rely on Netflix long before I would pay more for my shows.

  7. I think that covers it. Now, I’m going to walk my dog before the rain gets worse.

Well there are lots of benefits to torrenting tv shows, you don’t have to put up with ads, you can watch them whenever you like and if you live in a country other than America you get to stay up to date rather then waiting for the tv networks to air it in your country (if they even bother to).

Plus when legitimate websites (amazon) won’t let you pay for a tv show you want to watch because you aren’t in the USA then torrenting looks very appealing.

Hell I don’t see why Dvd’s take so long to be released if nothing else I’m happy to by a dvd (any region). The networks who produce television need to realise that there is currently an option that is fast, free and available worldwide instantly without the annoyance of shampoo ads every 7minutes, and its time to start competing in that market by making their product more accessible and appealing.

I really think that direct download offered by networks for tv shows in Full HD is the way to go, let people have standard definition for free, and if they choose they can pay for full HD or else let people download SD and then (try to) sell dvds/blurays.

Yeah, don’t even start me on “SyFy” — it’s a dumb, dumb attempt to make science fiction into something warm and fuzzy and not too intimidating — kind of like when they changed Radio Shack to "The Shack."

It’s the entertainment industry equivalent of wearing a “Frisco” T-shirt. (wearing one in San Francisco, anyway.)

That being said, I thought it worked like this:

  1. Cable networks collect quite large amounts of money every month from probably a great majority of us.

  2. They use this money to either buy shows being offered to them, or make shows of their own; and also of course to pay for operating costs.

I understand that advertising dollars increase by an order of magnitude the budgets for these in-house shows that some channels produce. But, do self-produced shows make up the majority of the programming for the large cable networks? What is the ratio of “made for HBO” movies to movies they simply bought the right to air?

Probably a lot of people don’t remember, (or never knew) but cable TV was on for years without commercials. How did that work? Was the programming substantially worse?

(before you answer that, pick up your remote, press “guide,” scroll down through the stuff that’s on right now, and then tell me how much better it is now.)

I agree, SyFy is a niche channel for a niche audience, and I’ve never understood why they don’t seem to get that themselves. Go for that audience, and sew it up tight, and you’ve succeeded.

Actually, I have a pet theory about really good scifi TV shows (Firefly, Star Trek, StarHunter, SGU, etc.) : they only last two seasons.
That’s how you know.

I’ve never claimed to be hip, but I do love me some good science fiction.

I’ll be in mah bunk!

firstname: I type slow, and you posted while I was doing the above.

Now there’s a good idea! A viable alternative! Cool!

Anyone else?

We don’t have advertising on the subscriber television service in New Zealand http://www.skytv.co.nz/ However SKY do insert a fair amount of noise about upcoming programs in the spaces where ads would normally appear.

As for torrents, peer to peer etc, I have no doubt free uncontrolled access to tv/movies/music etc is reducing the money flow.

My teenage children struggle to see the moral argument about piracy despite being very law-abiding in other respects. So the producers of entertainment face a real conundrum.

Still…an actor such as Charlie Sheen earning $1.5 million an episode…the excesses of the entertainment world undermine any sympathy ordinary people might otherwise feel.

Without being able to read the article, I doubt torrents had anything to do with SGU’s lack of success. Instead, it was the show creator’s decision to veer so completely away from the style of the 2 previous successful Stargate franchises that they turned off their own fan base.

They replaced a light-hearted, family-safe sci-fi adventure into a dark, shaky-cam seizure inducing version of 90210 in space.

No, I’m not bitter.

This, and the fact that the StarGate series is 15 years old, an extremely long time to keep a series going, without breaking the original premise…

I haven’t seen any numbers on these matters, but I can’t imagine that the number of people torrenting TV shows are enough to make a difference in the ratings. Those files tend to be pretty large, and from what I can tell most people just don’t want to bother.

With a decent connection you can download popular shows in a few minutes. The bother is pretty minimal. Though I agree that in general the number of people that pirate currently running TV shows probably isn’t huge.

A show like SGU, where the fan-base is pretty close to the same demographic that uses bittorrent a lot is probably a lot more vulnerable to it though. And as more people become more computer savy, I imagine more shows will face the same problem.

Well, we already have HBO and the like, so the cost of paying for a channel on a subscription basis instead of advertising is known. Whats an HBO subscription, like 30$? So thats one channel for about the same cost as a general cable subscription, I think thats steep enough that people would end up pirating things at least the same amount as they do now. Plus if you paid per-channel, there’d be a lot of temptation to pirate the shows on networks that you only wanted to watch one show on.

I cancelled cable last year.
I’m content watching shows from 2007 on Netflix. If something good is on cable now, I’ll get to it in 3 or 4 years.
We’re currently watching Veronica Mars, which I never even knew existed when it was originally broadcast.

I thought that DVR’s were invented so you didn’t have to watch the commercials. There’s no need to increase cable fees.

And WRT to SGU, wasn’t there a new episode on night before last?

Oh, and I’m guessing this thread will soon pass through a stargate to the Cafe Society forum.

That’s what I was going to say. I watched SG-1 religiously from it’s start in 1997 through it’s final season in what… 2006? Then I watched Stargate Atlantis pretty religiously as well- it didn’t hurt that it came on after SG-1 for the first season or two.

I never watched an episode of SGU- it just didn’t seem to offer enough continuity nor enough novelty for me to really get into it. Which is kind of sad, because there’s not much in the way of real sci-fi on TV these days. Plenty of supernatural x-files stuff like “Fringe”, but not much in the way of spaceships and aliens anymore.

(sidenote: Was the 1997-2002 period the golden age of sci-fi on TV? We had 2 trek shows, the trailing end of Babylon 5, the beginning of SG-1, the latter seasons of the X-files and second tier stuff like Andromeda, Mutant-X, Lexx, Earth:Final Conflict and Seven Days)

You could ask the same question about Caprica and the answer again would be “no, the show just sucked.”

Content providers need to understand that they aren’t competing with “free.” They are competing with a superior product. Here are the benefits to torrenting:

  1. You can pick your own format
  2. You can choose your preference for commercials (original airing commercials, none)
  3. Instant playback (from the hard drive)
  4. Enormous library on a single device
  5. Freedom to watch on multiple devices
  6. Freedom to watch from any place on earth

I think people are largely revolting against the limited use of current media. In our current state it is actually more convenient to steal the desired product than try to acquire it legitimately. This isn’t a case of people just being cheap thieves. The problem will only get worse as more people realize how easy it is to get the products they actually want. Not paying for them is just icing on the cake.

Firefly was in that period to. I presume it was the success of ST:TNG that got the studios to OK a bunch of (ultimately not very successful) space-ship dramas.

It was also when cheap CGI started to look decent, which probably helped.

Torrents downloading probably has a stronger influence on smaller shows than more mainstream production, but I don’t know if it would be the primary reason for cancellation.

I’ve been watching the odd SGU episode on Space (Canadian Sy-Fy) and it is a fairly decent series and there was definitely some thought put into it. However, it so desperately attempted to capture the tone of BSG in just about everything from snap-zoom intensive, shaky directing, opening credits, dark tone editing, themes, civilian-military conflict (just to name a few) at the expense of being it’s own production. I suppose they were gunning for the demographic that enjoyed BSG but I feel that emphasising that style (at times, quite blatant) in lieu of attempting to create something more unique backfired.

That’s how it used to be here. I’m fine with that; it’s just not as obnoxious as commercials.

Word! See, I suspect that the relationship of advertising dollars to the actual amount of money needed to produce good content is not as simple and direct as they would have us think.

Torrents didn’t kill SGU, as others have stated, the departure from the basic premise of the Stargate world and it’s darker, serialistic soap opera put alot of SG fans off.
IMHO torrents actually supported SGA and SGU and their fans who missed episodes, had to wait for a later broadcast in their area, or want to review episodes. I can’t imagine how much traffic MGM may have missed by not being current in their online episodes.

Yeah, I wondered about that too- decent special effects via CGI finally got decent enough and cheap enough to do regularly on a weekly syndicated tv show.

Still… it seems that there are vanishingly few sci-fi shows on now, BSG’s gone, there’s no Trek series going, etc… And I’m not a fan of the “modern day, hidden oddities” show, a-la X-files, Fringe and Sanctuary.