What Doctor Who can teach Kim Williams

What Doctor Who can teach Kim Williams

Summary: The ABC's decision to release new episodes of Doctor Who online first can teach a lot to content holders who delay releasing content in Australia.


The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) revealed today that it plans to release the new episodes of the latest season of Doctor Who on iView at 5.10am AEST on Sundays, starting this weekend. This is just hours after it airs in the UK, and a full week before it will be broadcast on Australian TV.

(Credit: BBC)

The BBC's iconic long-running science-fiction show Doctor Who has always been one of the shows that fans just can't wait for Australian broadcasters to air; even a week is too long, as ABC managing director Mark Scott has previously pointed out.

But Australians won't have to wait anymore. The ABC announced on its blog today that starting with the season premiere of "Asylum of the Daleks" on 2 September, every episode of this season of Doctor Who will be up on ABC's TV-streaming service iView just hours after it airs in the UK, and likely hours before most Australians are awake to watch it.

What is surprising is that Australians are so used to waiting for TV shows that when someone gets it right, we're all amazed. Although some have complained that iView only broadcasts in standard definition and not high definition (you can't please everyone, and I'm sure they'll rectify that eventually), I predict that we'll still see a bit of a decline in the number of Australians choosing to obtain the new episodes of the show through BitTorrent or other copyright-infringing methods, because it's available right when people want it. I sincerely doubt that the ratings for the episodes will take much of a hit when they are broadcast on TV, too.

The ABC must have a TARDIS of some sort, because it has seen the future and knows that this is where content delivery is going to end up.

It comes at an interesting time in the copyright debate in Australia. Last week, News Limited CEO Kim Williams mocked those who claim that they download TV shows or films because they are not available quickly enough in Australia, or are not at an affordable price to buy. He compared this mentality to stealing from a jewellery shop because it is shut and the items are too expensive.

Williams rejected any assertion that there is a lack of digital content available today. It's really not surprising that the former CEO of Foxtel would be sticking up for traditional broadcast models, and I would say that although there might be a lot of digital content about, it's not usually what people want.

What Williams is seeking to protect is not the income for the artists, the TV show makers or even the film studios, but rather the archaic method of delivery. It's hard to see Foxtel's business case, which is built on a foundation of packaged channels consisting of content that you're not all that interested in, surviving in a digital environment where people are getting what they want, when they want it.

And while content owners say that they can't compete with free, as iiNet's chief regulatory officer Steve Dalby noted, the bottled water industry is profitably selling stuff that you can get for free.

In this case, because the ABC is the public broadcaster, we are getting that content for free anyway, but I hope that this experiment is watched closely by Foxtel and other commercial broadcasters, which can, in turn, find some way for us to watch their shows at the same time they are released in their country of origin, either with a subscription-based model or supported by ads. Otherwise, these businesses might find themselves more extinct than the Time Lords.

Topics: Government, Government AU


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • Compare apples with apples....


    It's fine to say someone is getting it right, but you are comparing the British national broadcaster and the Australian national broadcaster and their ultimate goal of delivery to everyone as opposed to the commercial stations who need to recoup their investment (this isn't necessarily the goal of national broadcasters)

    On your quote " I would say that although there might be a lot of digital content about, it's not usually what people want" - no, you're right, legal delivery mechanisms which cost money are not what people want. They want it for free. As y eloquently pointed out, even delivered in near real time in SD for free is not enough for some people. There is always an excuse, always a reason.... It wouldn't matter if foxtel streamed the shows with ads, the self justifies would say that it wasn't convenient enough.

    As for Steve Dalby's analogy. Laughable at best. It's comparing businesses who willingly compete with an already nearly free product and try to convince people to buy it in a bottle to the content industry and telling them that they should still invest massive money into productions (Game of Thrones is multi millions per episode), and than say, you should have to compete with free. It's a poor inversion and distortion of the analogy. You would do well to steer clear of poorly constructed analogies when trying to prove a point.
    • Missed the point

      Like I said, it's an experiment from the national broadcaster that I think the commercial companies should watch. The commercial broadcasters (I'm talking Seven and Nine here) are losing revenue to torrenting anyway, so why not experiment with alternative methods of putting the content up online first?

      I think you have a more cynical view on this than I do. I'm optimistic that people will pay when they're given the option, and it's as simple and easy as other methods are.
      Josh Taylor
      • Poll it


        I understand you say its an experiment, but the motivations of national broadcasters are vastly different from commercial content providers.

        I think you overestimate the public. Its never as simple if you have to enter a credit card and be charged for it. For arguments sake, let's ask the following question (You could poll this question):

        All things being equal; quality, availability and accessibility, if you're favorite tv show was available online with both legal and infringing copies would you:

        1. Pay $2.99 per legal episode;
        2. Access an infringing copy for free;
        3. Access an infringing copy if you knew there would never be legal repercussion from rights owners
        • we know what you would do....

          Well that obviously says your choice. I want digital content. I'm sick of overpaying for packaged channels I don't give a crap about and won't watch. I would pay less for the 10 channels I WANT. Also, I would be more than willing to buy everything ala carte if it was reasonable. At 2.99$ per episode, it would be about 90$ for a season, which is rediculous. I do not download as I want it legally, however, I understand why people illegally download since they CAN'T get what they want legally. Content providers are trying harder and harder to hold down the content to the archaic services while people are past that. People want EASY to access digital content. Give me access to any show I want, easily on demand to stream or download to watch later (Which is what we really want) on a sort of on-demand basis and I'll pay for that service. I would unhook from cable if you offered a service like that and pay 50$/month for it and then just buy internet access. I don't even care if the on demand shows have freaking ads in them. It's just a matter of people wanting access to everything easily. We don't want to get nickel and dime'd....or in this case dollar'd to death overpaying for content, especially freely broadcast content.
          • Paying less for the 10 channels you want will never happen

            At least, with traditional television service (cable, satellite, etc). It costs them just as much to push all of their channels to you as ten of them, so even if it did happen, the costs wouldn't be significantly different.
      • I get your point though Josh

        I think what JB is missing, is that the bottled water companies (Coca-Cola Amatil, etc) value add (water is guaranteed to be clean and filtered so the taste is standard) to make the price justified.

        The content gatekeepers and creators haven't figured out a way to "clean and filter" their "water" (content) yet, so the added value part of the anology is missing when it comes to movies/tv...
  • This is my exact experience

    I want to buy content. I really do. Although I think that some places, like iTunes, have the prices way too high $20 for a season of Can of Worms seems a little steep, especially if this is the way you consume all your content. Not going to happen.

    I go out of my way (really out of my way) to pay actual, real money for Netflix, and a VPN so I can get content from other parts of the world in a timely manner. Netflix is awesome. So awesome I can't fathom why we dont have something similarly awesome here. But we dont (remember it runs on everything you can think of)

    I went out of my way to pay for Foxtel on X-Box, before being turned of by the pathetic amount of catch up options, crappy streaming technology and interface which is constantly trying to up-sell you by putting in a whole bunch of crap you didn't want to pay for. Twice I have signed up, twice I have cancelled within a month.

    And if you expect me, someone who has been downloading TV shows since I had dial-up, to sit around and wait for a show to Air on Australian Free to Air networks seems anachronistic.

    The problem is, they have always been competing with free. Television has been "free" for a long time. Torrents are Free, streaming is free.

    If you are telling me there is no way to sell ads into a streaming version of Breaking Bad that gets released at the same time as it airs in the US, I'm telling you that you haven't tried to sell it hard enough, why not package it all in with on air advertising, are you even trying?

    I'm just waiting around till I can pay (with a reasonable amount of money, or by viewing real live ads with my eyeballs) for the content I can currently get for free in an easier manner.

    I am waiting with my money and my eyes, as I am sure many, many people of my generation are. But if you treat me with contempt even when I am paying (Hi Foxtel) , I will just get it for free, its way too easy.
  • Economic principles

    "I'm just waiting around till I can pay (with a reasonable amount of money, or by viewing real live ads with my eyeballs) for the content I can currently get for free in an easier manner. "
    Followed by
    "I will just get it for free, it's way too easy"

    I don't foresee it getting harder to get it for free.

    The basic principle of economics has been removed of supply and demand, and you're now left with a proposition of: "if I don't think you're price is reasonable, I'm going to get it for free anyway. " traditional market demand curves have been replaced with a supply/demand intersection with a floor price superimposed set at $0. Whilst some may part with some money to pay for content, I would bet the vast majority would not, and there is always a reason why it is too inconvenient to pay.