In a departure from its previous efforts to keep its shows from proliferating on the internet, HBO recently released the pilot of its new series Flight of the Conchords to roam free across the web. You can watch or embed the show from the HBO show page, MySpace, iFilm and even download it as an iTunes podcast.
Conchords follows the antics of “New Zealand’s fourth most popular folk parody duo” as they try to make a name for themselves in the world capital of ironic hipsterdom, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It won’t actually premiere on HBO until June 17.
While HBO has pre-released shows via cable video on demand services in the past to spur subscriptions, and has also made previews of shows like Tourgasm and Extras available at iTunes along with other show podcasts, this is the first time it has allowed people to download, share and embed a new show online.
Showtime, another premium cable network, released two episodes of its new series The Tudors using Brightcove earlier this year, and promoted it on MeeVee. But fans weren’t allowed to download or embed the episodes.
What especially interesting is that HBO has been notoriously aggressive in policing torrent networks for its content. The O’Reilly Radar blog found the company employing MediaSentry to slow down torrent downloads down and find IP addresses of unauthorized downloaders. MediaSentry has since been acquired by SafeNet, but the tactics remain the same. A number of accounts of users getting nastygrams from their ISPs after downloading HBO content have serviced in the intervening years.
In this case, making the episode freely available seems to be working. A quick scan of Mininova, Torrentspy and The Pirate Bay turns up no copies of the pilot episode. This could be a function of making content available for free short-circuiting any desire to ‘steal’ it, or it could be because the show isn’t particularly well known yet.
Without a version available on a public tracker, I can’t test to see if HBO is employing SafeNet to police the network for P2P shared copies of the show. But my question is, if you make it available for free via embeds and downloads, why not seed it on the torrent trackers yourself? It would save on the bandwidth costs in streams and downloads.
Speaking of downloads, what HBO isn’t doing is making future episodes available via the iTunes store, so this may be the first and last time you can watch it on your Apple TV.
In related news, Paul McCartney released his newest video straight to YouTube. See it in our video bar at the top of this page.