Torrenting is the New Black?

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Yesterday, Netflix released the eagerly anticipated trailer for the fifth season of its original series, “Orange is the New Black.” Unfortunately for the company, almost the entire season is already available online, thanks to the work of a group of anonymous hackers by the name “thedarkoverlord,” who pulled unreleased episodes from the post-production company Larson Studios’ server in April. Since then, Refinery29 reports that summaries of ten of the thirteen episodes have appeared on the show’s Wikipedia page, making spoilers accessible even to people who do not wish to torrent the episodes.

Yet, despite thedarkoverlord’s demands for ransom payment and threats to other networks (pictured below), Wired writer Brian Barrett argues that the leak “wasn’t worth paying even one cent to prevent.” In Barrett’s eyes, there will always be people who illegally torrent shows, but Netflix has a high enough number of paying subscribers (98.75 million) to make up for that minority. Moreover, the amount of people torrenting content has dropped drastically in recent years; whereas BitTorrent “accounted for 23 percent of daily internet traffic in North America” in 2011, “that number sat at under 5 percent” in 2016.

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For me, this entire situation is fascinating on multiple levels. For one thing, the leak reflects just how much TV technology has changed, even within my own lifetime; whereas once you were at the mercy of scheduled re-runs to catch up on a missed or re-watch a beloved episode of TV, now we have the freedom to peruse seasons of our favorite series at our leisure and, in the case of the OITNB leak, sometimes even ahead of their intended release. The Internet has allowed for a sort of instant TV gratification that would otherwise not be possible. Sure, you could go out and purchase a boxed set of a specific season of television, but you would need to allot time for the season to air and then some, whereas many streaming services today release entire seasons of a show at once, as is the case with Orange is the New Black.

Yet, despite this culture of instant gratification, the amount of people torrenting content illegally is dropping. This was perhaps the most interesting part of the article for me, as a poor college student who is all too familiar with determining the most diplomatic way to ask someone for their Hulu and Prime account information. I would have thought that as average people become more internet-savvy and popular shows are spread across so many different costly platforms, more people would say, “Screw it,” and pirate films and movies from services they don’t subscribe to. This information was shocking to me, but as an aspiring television writer, I am obviously pleased. The only thing better than having a show good enough for thousands of people to pirate is having a show that’s worth paying for.

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Barrett’s article can be found at the following link: https://www.wired.com/2017/05/orange-is-the-new-black-leak/

 

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One thought on “Torrenting is the New Black?

  1. You might say that this was a serious case of grand Larson-y. Eh? I’ll see myself out…

    But seriously, this conversation reminds me of the one happening in the early 2000s with the panic in the music industry and the birth of iTunes/the iTunes store. It seems people are drawn more to convenience than free stuff. Torrent sites are generally so much less user-friendly, intuitive, and aesthetically pleasing than paid alternatives that those things end up being deciding factors. Couple that with people’s rampant, hysterical fear of hacking, broadly defined, and I can see why they turn to safer, most industry-rooted alternatives. I think that slick convenience ends up enforcing these sites’ curatorial status status as well. A show isn’t “a show” unless I can access it via one of the top streaming sites. Likewise with music –
    “Is your band on iTunes?”
    “…no.”

    Either way, those were some pretty surprising figures and this really got me thinking about stuff I haven’t considered regarding how people get media and what they seem to care about in that regard.

    Like

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