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How much would I pay for all-you-can-eat TV?

Posted May 5, 2013 into Telly by John Birmingham

Years ago, when I was living at the beach, I took a call from a Foxtel pimp, trying to get me to sign up to a pay-TV deal. Not even tempted. Cable was still pretty new in those days and I asked this unctious spiv whether I'd be able to get stuff on demand. He mocked me for my naïveté. He would still mock me, I'd wager, although nowadays he'd probably lie and try and sell me a line of shit about all the different ways Foxtel pretends it can deliver what you want to watch, when you want to see it.
It can't. It's still way behind my wishful thinking. Not that it matters much to me, because the number of shows I have queued up on my magic box is shameful. I only just finished watching season two of Falling Skies. (More of which in a separate blog.)
Dom Knight had a great essay over at Fairfax yesterday about his idea of a perfect TV service. It's not far from my own hopes and dreams all the way back at the beach.


What I want with TV and movies is what I have with music now – the capacity to watch whatever I want instantly, at high quality, on any device, with a well-designed, convenient interface. I want instant gratification at a lowish price – something like $10 or $20 a month instead of the more than $100 a month that Foxtel wants to charge. Let’s say that I’d gladly pay up to $50 a month for all the music, TV and movies I could stream via any device. Give me that, and I’ll gladly pay it forever.


I've never thought of an all-you-can-eat media buffet before. Something that delivers TV, movies, music, even magazine subscriptions to something like an iPad. As Dom points out in his story we're seeing the outlines of a system like that emerging in the US now, with millions of people cutting the cable to put together their own personalized TV schedule from a mix of Netflix, Hulu plus and/or iTunes. (I'm not sure, but it could be that in the US at least Hulu comes as an option on iTunes). And millions more, of course, doing the same through teh torrentz.
The streaming options closer to home, unsurprisingly, are abysmal, perhaps accounting for the unusually high incidence of piracy here.
His piece is worth reading because of its deft understanding of history, technology, and psychology. But the thing I took away from it was the idea of the all you can eat buffet. How much would I pay for something like that? If I had to cobble it together from bits and pieces, as I sort of do at the moment, I guess it would cost me about $200 a month. Way too much, even for my profligate ways. I suspect most people would top out at about fifty or sixty dollars a month. The entry level basic cable price. I'd probably be happy paying a hunnert or so. It's still a lot less than I'm paying now for my premium Foxtel subscription, which in some ways is getting worse as time goes by.
For all of their crowing about delivering first-run TV within a couple of hours of the show's airing in the US – and it is something to crow about – Foxtel have recently reorganized their premium movie channels in such a way as to offer less choice for the same price.
Somewhere in his essay, Dom speculates about how devastating it would be to the local TV ecology for an apex predator like Netflix to turn up here.

There are currently too many players and formats and none offers enough of everything at a sufficiently cheap price. In particular, Foxtel seems to be trying to offer lots of different ways to watch live TV, via iPad and X-Box 360 and TBox and several other devices, without embracing the need to build a system that does proper on-demand streaming of their shows. Personally, I don’t care about channels, I don’t want schedules, I don’t need hard disk recording. I just want a mass of content that has every good show from today or the past, streaming immediately, in high definition, on any device.

If this ever happened, I'd expect at least one of the free to air networks, either Ten or Nine, to be out of business within about eighteen months.

40 Responses to ‘How much would I pay for all-you-can-eat TV?’

Once Was Moko reckons...

Posted May 5, 2013

Yeah, I don't mind paying for Game of Thrones from itunes as it's about the only show I watch ... excuding the news. I get my doco fixes off of YouTube with channels like VICE, GangstersIncDK, and Gangland, History, yadda yadda.

It would need to be a really cheap subscription for me to get on board just because I don't watch 'TV'.

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tqft ducks in to say...

Posted May 5, 2013

We record almost everything we watch due to time constraints and the ads.

Foxtel no cable, no money and I dont like satellite, had it once, was kind of sucky.

I suspect the TV stations will probably be worth more for their spectrum and rights contracts in a few years.

Is a good piece - also has a classic line about JB.

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Blarkon mumbles...

Posted May 5, 2013

What happened to the musicians will happen to TV. Remember that graphic that showed what an artist got per album versus what they get on Spotify? Like that.

Ultimately people will get the TV that they are willing to pay for.

Anders swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 5, 2013

But also, remember that Spotify actually sends SOME money to the artists, unlike other channels that people had previously chosen to use.

Lobes swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 5, 2013

It's not really the same because making good TV costs lots and lots of money and requires many people.

Great music can be, and still is, made for free by as few as one persons.

Blarkon reckons...

Posted May 5, 2013

This should give you an accurate idea of how much money Spotify kicks back to a musician.

http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/2010/how-much-do-music-artists-earn-online/

alexmac would have you know...

Posted May 5, 2013

I wonder how much the all you can eat model would have to cost/how many people would have to subscribe before it offered fair compensation to the people actually making the TV.

The reason that HBO, Showtime and FX can afford to make such quality drama is that they work on a different subscription model in the States (on top of regular cable TV) which provides shitheaps of revenue and means they're not so beholden to ratings.

Blue Tyson swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 5, 2013

TV, already free.

IInet fetchtv thingo for example says you STILL NEED AN AERIAL to get the current free to air channels via their service.

Like, wtf?

Would I pay for a service that gave me all the usual channels and digital over the internet, so no reception issues or satellite dishes (thanks to cabling the country fail). Sure.

Blarkon would have you know...

Posted May 5, 2013

TV's not free. You've been paying for it through attention to advertisements.

Except that was broken by the Internet.

Here's an example. An advertising slow during the top rated comedy in 2000 (Friends/NBC) cost you $550,000

An advertising slow during the top rated comedy in 2012 (Big Bang Theory/CBS) costs you $270,000)

Advertising against the 8th top rated show in 2000 still cost you more than advertising against the top rated show (Sunday Night Football) in 2013.

(and that's in raw rather than adjusted dollars)

So "Free" TV isn't free. That was an illusion. Advertisers paid a lot of money for eyeballs. Because of the rise of Internet advertising, they pay a hell of a lot less.

Back in the heydey of TV, each viewer of a show was worth a couple of bucks.

Today - the "stars of youtube" who get millions of hits a week are getting about a few cents per subscriber.

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Anders is gonna tell you...

Posted May 5, 2013

I'd pay a fairly decent rate for this - $60 or so.

If it's guaranteed to put Seven, Nine and Ten out of business in eighteen months? DOUBLE IT.

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w from brisbane puts forth...

Posted May 5, 2013

I don't think many people are driven enough to be that interested. I think many people just want something watchable, and don't much care what it is.

That is why sports is such desirable content, a relatively huge segment of the population, 5-10%, really must watch. Particularly, if they have a bet on.

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beeso asserts...

Posted May 5, 2013

What I don't understand is that TV is so fucking stupid. Lots and lots and lots of people are telling the program makers how they would like to PAY for their content. But they are so tied into the network deals that torrenting might just kill them.

Foxtel can rave about getting content to the market quickly, but if the major sports in this country start offering live sport from the net for pay per view, then foxtel will die and pretty quickly.

Brother PorkChop has opinions thus...

Posted May 6, 2013

Good point. I would pay to stream Rugby but not hook up to Foxtel. Even though I live in Brisbekistan, I cannot get cable and would have to arrange satellite.

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Blarkon has opinions thus...

Posted May 5, 2013

Most people aren't describing how they would really behave when they say they will pay for it if it is made available. GoT is made available in Oz on iTunes soon after it is shown in the US. Very few people are paying for it because a couple of bucks is "too much" for something they can torrent for free.

It's like with the old internet tip jars that were going to ensure that bloggers got paid. You know why they went away? Because even though people said they'd chuck some cash the blogger's way if they enjoyed the story - in reality they didn't. A couple of people got some coin right at the beginning - but given the option of paying for something and not paying for it when there are no consequences for not paying for it - the vast majority of people don't.

Darth Greybeard reckons...

Posted May 5, 2013

Unless the situation has flipped again, GoT is not available on either iTunes or Quickflix in Australia. Fox apparently killed that very smartly. Not sure If I can still get it with a US iTunes account, still looking at setting that up. Rather irritating because I could have got each episode as it was released for a total cost about the same as I've paid for the previous seasons on Blu-ray.

beeso is gonna tell you...

Posted May 5, 2013

You can get GOT this season then Fox has clamped down. No wins out of that except maybe stupidity.

Steve mumbles...

Posted May 5, 2013

I've got a GoT3 season pass on iTunes. Does this mean I won't be able to do so for GoT4?

beeso puts forth...

Posted May 5, 2013

Not till after foxtel have shown it.

Steve mumbles...

Posted May 6, 2013

Okay, so here I am, willing and able to pay for legal downloads but not able to watch them because Foxtel want to force me onto their movies package. F*** me!

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Bangar swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 5, 2013

Blarkon, Devil's Advocate Position

If no one will pay why do RRR and Dan Carlin (I pay for both) still exist? Is it that only the best will get funding or is it how they do it makes a difference?

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Samwise swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 5, 2013

With my VPN service, I can access free Hulu, and love it. And I would pay for the fully featured version if I had an american credit card. But it doesnt cover all my wants, mainly my Mad Men and HBO fixes.

I would also want something that would as seamlessly integrate with my entertainment system, be it via Apple TV (like US Netflix and Hulu) or possibly PS3.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted May 7, 2013

Tried to VPN Hulu but fucked it up somehow. This is another reason I cannot pirate stuff. Ineptitude.

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w from brisbane mumbles...

Posted May 5, 2013

The most irritating thing about the Foxtel model is that you have to buy channels you don't want to get the ones you do.

"I would like to buy this pot plant and this book on golf.'

"Certainly, you can have that as long as you buy these ceramic ducks, 2 books about penquins and and a replacement snowmobile clutch."

Foxtel CEO, Richard Freudenstein, said there was no way to monetise the idea of allowing customers to choose which channels they want.

(Sigh)

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DrYobbo mutters...

Posted May 5, 2013

It may not surprise you to hear all I give a fuck about is being able to see all of the live sport. All of it. Which, in NZ as increasingly in AU, means pay TV. This simplifies the 'are they showing it soon enough to its premiere' deal vs drama series, because if it's not live, it's irrelevant. Even so, there's always room for fail with networks deciding not to pay up for certain series (eg Sky NZ this year with MotoGP, or ESPN with Italian or Spanish football). For the money I pay, I expect to see everything I want. And by and large, I do. But I'd love a truly on-demand (probably online) system where you could solely sign up for the sport and all the other faff (Living Channel?? MTV???) could be fucked off. I note the rise of sports selling direct online rights to everything in their sport (eg NBA with Gamepass), interested to see how this works within the ANZ sports market.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted May 5, 2013

Yeah, I thought that was strong point Dom made about the need to be able to access ALL THE SPORTZ ALL THE TIMEZ.

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TeamAmerica asserts...

Posted May 5, 2013

Out of curiousity, is Amazon Prime available in Australia? I currently have Netflix and Amazon (as well as cable tv), but I will likely drop cable soon. Amazon seems the better deal to me as it has a pay-to view option for newer movies, which Netflix lacks.

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted May 5, 2013

Dont think so, TA. I'm conflicted about it. I'd dearly love the convenience and cheapness, yet fear the howling wasteland it would make of the local retail sector.

accidie puts forth...

Posted May 6, 2013

I think it might be. But DON'T click on the link to have a look unless you plan to buy it. They take that as signing up and bill your credit card immediately. I only found out when I saw my statement, and discovered I'd paid $79 for a service which is of NO BLOODY USE TO ME because of the slow download speeds here in Woop Woop.

To be fair, they'll give you a refund. But it still smacks of trickery and skates close to fraud.

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Pax puts forth...

Posted May 5, 2013

I already pay for iTunes tv season passes (a mistake I know - especially the current disaster that is the "Once Upon a Time" second season [iTunes can not supply episodes until they have been shown on the purchasing station. Channel 7 stopped at episode 9 last December...])

So yes - an "on time, when I want it" service would be worth shiny gold coins to me

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Barnesm puts forth...

Posted May 5, 2013

Much like you I am currently forking over the cash for Foxtel which means I end up with a truck load of series waiting to be watched. I'd be happy to pay what I am currently paying for Foxtel. Interestingly I recently gained in the movie shuffle, getting all the movie channels I hadn't subscribed to for an additional $3 a month. I agree the people that were already payign for them got shafted.

DrYobbo puts forth...

Posted May 7, 2013

This is actually a thing. I have more shit backed up than I can deal with. I also have a lot of unwatched shows on my MySky. See what I did there. It was quite clever. But my dietary health aside, even with my aversion to series television I still have more stuff to watch than I have hours to watch stuff in. Which I think is always going to be the flaw in an 'everything on demand' model. It may be a generational thing, but I'm nowhere near as militant as some against the idea of someone else (eg a network) scheduling television for me. Saves me fucking about through the listings finding stuff I want to watch.

Blake asserts...

Posted May 7, 2013

I'm in a similar boat but must be on the other side of the generational divide.

Foxtel scares me as a concept. It's all-you-can-eat in the other sense, like having the Sizzler salad bar in your house all the time.

Sure there's quality on it but there's also a lot of rubbish and if its in my house I don't have the disciple not to stop eating.

That probably says something about me, but its also something I don't want to subject my family to. They don't need six cooking shows about cakes, when they start to watch shows about pawn shops alarm bells should ring that its time to turn the TV off and do something productive.

For some reason unlimited access to whatever you want (but the ability to choose what you want, when you want it) lets me have enough control to limit any self destructive viewing.

I'm not sure pick and pay viewing is a local content killer. Iview means I watch more ABC (although not an advertising revenue service).

If I had to pay for the episodes of the stuff I like for a similar service on 9/10/7 I would.

The really disappointing thing is fox's throwing its weight around and killing the direct d/l services that do operate here.

Most of the time I don't neeeeeed to watch it within hours of the US. But things like game of thrones survive on the buzz and Tuesday morning recap. It's hard to do that if you're 2months behind.

But I guess that's just another gen-y first world problem

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted May 7, 2013

No I get it. I really resent having the all you can eat buffet, or paying for it anyway, whena all I ever ever watch is a couple of shows. I have almost the opposite problem to you. I feel guilty about paying for the service and not using it enough!

Lulu ducks in to say...

Posted May 7, 2013

Yobbo: "It may be a generational thing, but I'm nowhere near as militant as some against the idea of someone else (eg a network) scheduling television for me."

I agree, with one proviso - the problem is that they schedule the good stuff at the same time. So I should probably get a digital recorder to cover those times when Elementary clashes with Downton Abbey (yes, I'm that uncool).

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ShaneAlpha puts forth...

Posted May 5, 2013

I got rid of the Foxtel when I realised I was paying $90.00 per month for 2 channels. Now I'm down to two tv shows that I can be bothered watching. One I get from iTunes and one from the free-to-air web catchup stream. It would probably have been harder if I actually gave a shit about sport anymore.

The rest of the time it's MMO timesink all the way.

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Spanner reckons...

Posted May 6, 2013

I don't watch a lot of sport but when I do I want it live and in HD. Cricket on 9 I can turn the sound down to avoid the gormless commentary but its in fuzzy SD. I can't watch it in SD.

Free to Air is pretty much dead to me it's riddled with ads in SD and is mostly crap.

My Foxbox on the other hand is chock full of series to work through. All of which come off 2 channels, FX and Showtime. So yeah I'd pretty much pay what I pay now for Foxtel for an on demand service.

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pi is gonna tell you...

Posted May 6, 2013

Which TV channel would be on the way to the knackers? The one that doesn't have a sports offering. It's also touched on in the article, but sport is, was, and always be, the killer TV app. It's current, live, and for people that want it, they don't mind paying for it, with or without ads.

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tqft swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 6, 2013

The future of tv advertising - this is US based but looks like the trend

http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmon/2013/02/20/content-economics-part-1-advertising/

"When people like Meeker look at ad spend, they’re looking mainly at brand advertising. Brands are valuable things, and billions of dollars are spent every year to keep them that way, mostly on TV and in print. And if you have a big national brand, there’s really only one way to reach a big national audience: you need to buy ads on TV. Doing so is expensive, but it’s necessary, and it works, which explains the huge sums of money which still flow into TV every year."

...

"This, then, is the biggest reason why TV ad dollars are not going to become online ad dollars: online ads simply don’t do what TV ads do. TV ads are large and beautifully produced and expensive, and they’re presented on a beautiful screen without distractions: they fill up the screen, and 30 seconds of time, and they appear often enough that they become part of the world of the people watching 145 hours of TV every month. "

Sony Game of Thrones here we come? You know with the right DRM they could block GoT from actually showing on anything but a Sony TV.

I actually think Ch10 had the right idea with all sport with a dash of explosions to be followed by some fishing with other sport for a side, perhaps ust too soon and it was killed. But the Star Trek mini-marathons are good to kill time with when beavering away on the laptop at night.

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 6, 2013

There you go. I saw your comment.

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TeamAmerica mumbles...

Posted May 6, 2013

About a year ago at the CES in Las Vegas, a media executive said roughly that the cable tv industry would not switch to the internet, as it would then drop from a $100 billion a year biz to only $40 billion. As I recall, someone responded that young people are not into cable, so a switch may be inevitable.

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