More Reasons to Love the Internet

Last year, Fox introduced a show called “Playing it Straight,” in which a “sweet, innocent Midwestern girl” appears on a “Bachelorette”-style show, only to learn that some of the 14 males vying for her affections are, in fact, gay. If, in the final episode, she picks one of these men, he walks away with $1 million. If she picks a breeder, they split the dough.

The show was even worse than it sounds (truly, truly bad — especially the woman), but in the manner of that old Woody Allen joke*, I got hooked after the first few episodes. What can I say: there were a few cuties in the cast, and I wanted to know if they played for my team or not.

So what does that have to do with the Internet? Well, I actually watched the show from Australia, a feat made possibly by BitTorrent. But that’s not such a big deal anymore. The twist is that Fox cancelled the show after 3 episodes. (At first it looked like they might “burn off” the rest sometime in the summer, but they never did, despite vague promises that they would “certainly provide any viewer that needs the information with the information of the conclusion.”)

BitTorrent to the rescue, again: a few months later, a viewer who saw the whole series when it aired in Israel created a package of the remaining episodes. I was able to snag it and learn who was who. It was a nice example of the “global economy” working for the little guy for a change.

Now Fox wants to see if it will work for the big guys: two weeks ago, they began offering all the episodes online for $2/pop. It’s interesting to see a broadcaster dip its toes into the pay-per-view market. I hope in a later post to take a look at some of the economics involved in going that route — from a broadcaster perspective. From an invididual perspective, let me save you the time: the series isn’t worth shelling out two bucks, much less per episode.

* “The food was terrible — and such small portions!”

Update [4 Feb 05]: NBC’s testing the download approach as well..

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