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In response to a few antagonistic tweets implying that the Syfy Channel intentionally withholds its shows from viewers outside of the US, Syfy’s resident tweetmaster Craig Engler had quite a bit to say. Unfortunately, twitter does have some limitations, one of which is long form responses. So, for your reading pleasure, I’ve compiled @Syfy’s response here in paragraph form:
Syfy is not the rights holder to the shows we air, we’re basically the “U.S. rights renter”. The underlying rights holder controls the rest.
Here’s a quick 101 on TV economics that might help:
First, TV shows are VERY expensive. We all know that. Even an inexpensive show costs…hundreds of thousands. Some cost SEVERAL million dollars PER EPISODE. To offsets those costs, the rights holder sell them to different networks in different territories. For instance, CRAIG CO. makes CRAIG’s SHOW. It costs $2 million per episode. CRAIG CO. might sell the US rights to CRAIG’s SHOW to Syfy for $500k. Now they need another $1.5 million. So they sell it to Sci Fi UK for $150k, etc. Sci Fi UK pay for the UK rights so they don’t want Syfy in the US to stream CRAIG’S SHOW in their territory. They want to show it.
Now, extend that out to all the other territories out there, and you understand why the rights issues are so prominent. It’s a business model that’s a legacy from a time when international distribution wasn’t even possible. Now that it is, a new business model needs to be developed to accommodate the ease of distribution online, which will probably take a while. The problem is, there is no way for CRAIG CO to both distribute CRAIG’s SHOW internationally via the Web & recoup its costs…not yet anyway.
iTunes sales and online ads add only a (small) fraction of $$$ to the pot, not enough to make Web distribution viable in and of itself.
More people are watching more TV than ever before. HOORAY! Just like any industry undergoing changes, we’ll sort it out eventually. I missed a tweet that said, the Internet can actually HELP (i.e. be additive) to regular TV viewing, piracy aside. So that’s a GOOD thing. Which is why I like to push for putting as much of our content online as possible, within reason. I.e. #Caprica is on syfy.com right now :)