Two years ago, my wife and I found the Syfy series Sanctuary on Netflix. The first 2 seasons were available and we watched all of it. We loved the show. We were really excited about catching the third season this past year. However, we do not subscribe to cable or satellite television and were unable to catch the new episodes as they aired. So we turned to Hulu.com. This was great because Sanctuary season two ended on quite a cliff hanger.
Sadly, we were very disappointed with the news that after episode 2, new episodes would have to wait a full month before they would be available for streaming either on Hulu or Syfy’s own website. We ended up forgetting about the show and missing several episodes before we remembered. This is where another poor policy stepped in. Syfy only allows the last 5 episodes to stream. By the time we remembered to start watching, 2 or 3 episodes were already knocked off the internet. This made us upset and we just stopped watching.
Fast forward to this summer. Eureka and Warehouse 13 are coming back on. Eureka for season 4.5 and Warehouse 13 for season 3. We are excited. We have not missed a single episode of these two shows since they first aired. We have watched every episode from Hulu because we do not have a cable or satellite subscription.
Imagine our disappointment when we learned last night, August 1, that these two shows are following in the same footsteps as Sanctuary did. Neither show will have new episodes online until October. Only the first two episodes are available online. At least that is what Syfy wants you to think.
Syfy is operating under the assumption that limiting the online availability of their shows will somehow increase their viewership through cable or satellite. However, they are ignoring a large class of viewers whose only option for watching these shows is online. These people have chosen for one reason or another to not pay for television. However these are people who still enjoy quality entertainment. They like these shows and want to watch them as soon as possible. over two months after airing is not soon enough for most people.
Some people do have friends that pay for television and watch these shows. Those who have to wait over two months do not want to avoid talking to their friends about the show for that time. By then, those who have watched it months earlier don’t remember enough to actually talk about it in an enthusiastic fashion. These people who have been forced to wait are now social pariahs. They are the people who are behind the curve. People don’t like feeling this way.
So what are they to do? That is where the internet succeeds and Syfy and other media companies lose. Other people and companies are seeing this untapped market of internet tv viewers and filling the gap left by content producers. They are the ones providing these people with the content they want to watch that content producers don’t want them to watch. They are doing it without the permission of the content producers and the content producers are losing revenue when they close those avenues and ignore those markets.
I am talking about what some in the content industries refer to as “pirates.” These “pirates” are making available online shows as soon as they air. There is no months long waiting period. Often there is no one day waiting period. These shows are being provided in a manner that people want to watch, but content producers don’t want to provide. These “pirates” are doing the job of content industries and those industries are losing out.
I have decided to look to these “pirates” and will finally be able to watch the full 3rd season of Sanctuary. I will be able to watch episodes of the current seasons of Eureka and Warehouse 13 the day after they air. None of this is going to bring revenue to Syfy. They do not think I am worthy to watch their shows. I was willing to sit through ads on Hulu and Syfy, but they don’t want that revenue. They would rather relegate me to social pariah status.
Thanks for nothing Syfy. By the way, your new name still sucks.
UPDATE: Syfy responded to me via Twitter with this comment:
Theft is not the “only” option if you’re unable to obtain something legally. No one is forcing you to steal something.
To which I posed the following questions:
My “legal” options are pay for cable, which I cannot afford, or wait over 2 months for a show that my friends are watching today.
I was actually very happy with last year’s set up of a week wait. Why did you ditch that? That was far more convenient and friendly
UPDATE 2: Syfy sent me a direct message with this comment:
Those are perfectly reasonable legal options. I wait for shows & movies to come out on Hulu & Netflix all the time.
In what way are they reasonable? I can’t afford cable, you used to offer a 1 week wait, now it is over 2 months. Why the change?
if you think a 2 month wait is reasonable, why bother releasing them before the DVDs at all?
UPDATE 3: Syfy with another direct message:
DVDs and digital streaming aren’t mutually exclusive.
they are not. However, it makes no sense to me to risk losing revenue over people “pirating” or not watching rather than make money
your idea is to force people to pay. That will not get you more cable subscribers. Especially if they have already missed when they do
Syfy stopped responding after those last tweets. I guess they decided I was a lost cause or something. However, I would like to make some final statements on this topic. Twitter does not allow a lot of room to express yourself in a debate like this.
Syfy has decided that waiting long periods of time to watch a show is good for the consumer. Syfy has decided that if someone does not want to wait long periods of time they should have to pay for cable or satellite to watch their shows when they air, even if those people can’t afford it or those people do not watch anything else offered.
Personally, I used Hulu as an alternative to cable. I was able to watch the handful of shows that would have watched had I had cable. I also use Hulu as a DVR of sorts for those over the air shows that I miss, when they are on Hulu anyway. I honestly don’t see the difference between using a DVR to record a show and watching it days or weeks later and using Hulu. Since I do not own a DVR and Syfy shows are no longer conveniently made available online, I am forced to turn to other sources for that “DVR” experience. Syfy loses out on this. They lose out because they are not offering me an option that I desire. If they had left these shows on the week wait schedule they were on last year, they would have ad revenue from me. Now they don’t.
There is no reason why any business should act in this way. I cannot understand the decision making process that leads to this. Why would any company choose to lose revenue rather than provide the level of service their customers desire? It boggles my mind. These companies, to me at least, see their customers not as fans, but as an enemy who must be kept in check. It is a completely adversarial relationship. That kind of relationship will only end in heartache for both sides of the equation. The fans will either turn to piracy or will stop watching. Syfy will lose revenue and fail. This can all be avoided by providing the level of service the customers desire. Why can’t Syfy get that?