A Matter of Degree?

Talk about cognitive dissonance: TV May Be Free but Not That Free [pdf]

Amanda Palmer hardly fits the profile of an Internet outlaw, but her obsession with the ABC show “Lost” makes this self-described “bubbly, nutty mum” the television industry’s worst nightmare.

Like thousands of other British fans, the 30-year-old personal assistant can’t bear to wait the nine months it can take for new “Lost” shows to air in England. So, soon after the closing credits roll in America, she downloads each episode off file-sharing networks.

And most alarming to TV industry executives, Palmer admits not a twinge of guilt.

“It’s TV, isn’t it?” she said. “It would probably be different if it was a movie. If it is free on everybody’s TV, why worry about it?”

The $60-billion TV industry has a simple answer to Palmer’s question: because the future of free TV may depend on it.

[…] In some ways, the industry’s dilemma boils down to this: how to convince consumers that you can steal something that is perceived to be widely available free of charge. The half-century-old business model of subsidizing TV production by selling commercial time to advertisers is invisible to the audience.

“Unlike downloading a Hollywood film, which I think everyone intuitively knows is a clear violation of the copyright, people do not have that sharp line, that distinction, in their minds when they download free TV,” said Garland of BigChampagne.