I sound like I’m boasting, but that’s not what I’m meaning to do. For good or bad Hollywood/America is the entertainment ideal, and making it here seems to be considered the pinnacle of success. If nothing else, my experience watching and reading about Korean drama has taught me that many Korean music and television companies really want to break into the American market. By making their shows available on Hulu right away, they’re able to do so in the most widespread fashion possible.
If these companies are ever able to get their content on our television or movie screens, I don’t think they’d hesitate to do it. I love kdramas and I’d like them to be more popular in America. I realize that if they ever are, my free access to dozens of kdramas might disappear behind a subscription wall. But it would be worth it, because it would mean greater American recognition for shows and movies made in other countries.
The same is even true with Doctor Who on BBC America. Up until season 5, episodes of the show ran on Syfy months after they aired in the U.K. It’s fantastic that we’re getting the show right away now, except that not everyone is. My father, for example, used to watch Doctor Who when it aired, but he doesn’t anymore. He doesn’t want to have to pay for a premium digital cable package with BBC America just so he can watch one television show.
That’s the trick with the forward steps taken by BBC America: we’ve traded cheaper access for sooner access. The BBC is willing to make the swap because now they’re seeing more revenue go directly to them, via their American arm, instead of to a deal with a separate channel/media conglomerate.
People like my dad, though, don’t mind waiting until Doctor Who trickles down to cheaper channels or onto DVD shelves at the library. The Internet media debate has often centered on devoted fans who want access to their shows right away, who spend enough time on the Internet that they’ll be spoiled if they’re not up on the latest episodes. We’re the type who might be willing to pay more to get things right away.
Even if international media companies are giving us access for their own reasons, to break into or expand in the American market, the bottom line for us still hasn’t changed that much: we’re getting more international media, sooner. Piracy is what first alerted many of these companies to the fact that they do have an audience based in America, and that the Internet is the platform for that audience.
Piracy changed something. In many cases media companies have reacted to it by locking down access to their content: that certainly seems to be the stance Hollywood is taking. But that’s not across the board: in a few cases, including some big ones (case in point: Doctor Who), our access to international media is growing.
I’m not sure where things will go from here. In terms of American content, we have a long way to go, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets worse before it gets better. But it’s not without hope: change is inevitable, even if it takes a while, and the success international content is having might help speed the process. Seeing other companies have success on the Internet, or using the Internet as a testing ground for wider audiences, might slowly convince Hollywood to do so as well.
The key is patience and perseverance. After all, some of these changes are only happening in America. What about fans in other, smaller countries, waiting for access (or even just fan subs) to trickle down to them? I’ve been there; I love Nodame Cantabile, a Japanese manga- turned anime- turned live-action drama. The drama inspired two in-theater movies, but I had to wait several months, until I was given access to them.
We might argue that everyone around the world ought to get the same instant access to all media, but do we really expect that to happen, especially at the speed at which it’s happening in America? It’s worth it to remember that, and to try to be patient waiting for change.
I’m able to do so because, for the reasons I’ve outlined, I’m feeling optimistic. At least half of my media consumption is international, and in the past two years I’ve gotten greater, quicker access to that content. I like to think that one day, someone in Hollywood will pay attention to the success of international media on the Internet. He or she will realize that many pirates would stream content legally, if it was of high-quality and delivered on demand. Maybe, just maybe, one day Hollywood will catch on. The future is changing, sometimes for the better, and we have piracy to thank.
Don’t agree at all, or think I’m crazy? Or have you noticed subtle gains forward as well? Share in the comments.
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