Most major media companies have accepted that digital is here to stay, and many are embracing digital, recognizing that it could some day soon be their most important channel.
But that doesn’t mean that they have stopped making poor digital decisions.
Take, for instance, Fox. The television studio is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., which has arguably been fairly bold, if not savvy, in the digital space as far as major media companies go.
Yet Fox, in an attempt to maximize revenue derived from live television, implemented a digital delay that puts a full eight days between the time a show airs on the small screen and when it becomes available on Fox.com and Hulu.
The result? According to TorrentFreak:
During the first five days, the number of [torrent] downloads from the U.S. for the latest episode of Hell’s Kitchen increased by 114% compared to the previous three episodes.
For MasterChef the upturn was even higher with 189% more downloads from the U.S. For MasterChef; the extra high demand may in part have been facilitated by the fact that it was the season finale.
Fox, of course, isn’t making episodes of these shows available via BitTorrent, so these downloads are all generally illegal.
Illegal or not, many will argue that Fox is at least partially to blame because it’s trying to force its viewers to watch shows at a particular time and place so as to maximize profits. That effort, of course, is, at best, can only be partially successful, as many will not watch at all, and others will download pirated versions of the shows.
At the end of the day, Fox’s decision to keep shows off of the internet for eight days isn’t too dissimilar from the New York Post’s decision to block freely available content from iPad owners.
Both decisions are informed by a flawed multichannel strategy which assumes that consumers today can be told when, where and how to consume content. In growing numbers, they can’t.
The better approach: instead of trying to herd consumers like cattle to a particular channel, empower them to consume content in the channels they prefer.
At the end of the day, consumption in different channels may not produce the same revenue, but companies that find ways to capture some revenue in multiple channels are far more likely to succeed than those that try to capture all revenue from one or two channels.