Popcorn Time: what the ‘Netflix you always wanted’ taught us about ourselves

Popcorn

Popcorn

I think it is pretty safe to say that we have all done it. We have succumbed to the peer pressure of the masses and we have buckled. We have tasted freedom and we liked it. We liked it so much that we want more; now; and forever! I am of course talking about torrenting movies and series — either illegally; legally or vicariously through a friend-of-a-friend. But we have all done it and we are going to keep on doing it!

I find it rather poetic that my PC wants to correct the word “torrented” to “tormented” as that is exactly how the big movie studios must be feeling! With torrent sites popping up virtually every day; there is a turf war on a global scale happening between the studios and the torrent sites. Perhaps happily or unhappily (depending on your view point) we; the hapless public; find ourselves caught in the middle of this battle and at the moment we are arguably coming out with a lot of the spoils.

So let’s unpack this issue a little more — and then circle back to why we are bringing up a product like Popcorn Time.

The short of it is that we are changing our consumption habits. We have moved to a far more on-demand lifestyle. We want, what we want, when we want it… On our terms. This is true not only for TV and movie viewing; but for magazines; music; news – in fact any form of “canned” or prepackaged entertainment that we consume. We demand it on our terms.

This in itself is fine. The production studios have bent their traditional delivery models to ensure that they do not lose the audience which they have built up over the last 50+ years. Initiatives like DsTVs Box Office allows users to watch movies when they want by simply unlocking it from their virtual library. Think of it as a small video store in your decoder.

Apple TV is another example where you are able to buy the content you wish to watch; when you want to watch it and then stream it to your device. What you want; when you want it.

The flaw here is that while they are in part giving us, the baying public, what we want; when we want it, they have only really delivered on about half of our collective demands. They have given us content when we want it; but they have charged a premium for the service. They are forcing principally the same high premium business model on us as when we had to consume content on their schedule.

This gave rise to a number of torrent sites who were providing a “free” (albeit largely illegal) way to get what we want; when we want it; for free. The media industry at large was disrupted by innovation. One such site was Popcorn Time. What this site allowed you to do was stream the latest movies with just a couple clicks. The software uses BitTorrent to find and download the movies, but eliminates the usual hassle of having to wade through sketchy torrent sites and then waiting for the file to finish downloading.

To quote Time.com, “think of this as the Netflix you have always wanted”. Granted — there are potentially huge copyright violations in using Popcorn Time and other similar applications — but this is the message we are sending back to the large production studio. Give us what we want; when we want it; at a fair and reasonable price — or we will go and find someone who will!

To sum it up: we are forcing the accelerated disruption of the movie industry (amongst others) with the huge advances and adoption rates of better and faster more personal technology. The message we are sending is that they need to adapt or die. This is natural selection on an industrial scale. The production houses who are able to morph their business models quickly enough; and find a balance between cost and availability are the ones who we will naturally gravitate to.

The final thought on this is that while the big production houses are scrambling to strike this balance (sadly more traditionally than we would like to see); there are a number of smaller more agile and independent producers who are already starting to get it right. It is this thought that should be far more of a worry for the slow moving dinosaurs than a noncommercial offering like Popcorn Time.

Image: Mark via Flickr.

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