Want to give your new TV show a big promotional push? Forget about those promo DVDs in Entertainment Weekly, nobody watches them. P2P is where it’s at for a new generation of TV viewers. At least that appears to have been the rationale of a WB TV employee who recently claimed that he helped to leak the pilot of the network’s new production, “Pushing Daisies,” onto various Torrent Web sites.
Actually, he didn’t do the whole thing by himself. His neighbor’s kid helped him out. Unfortunately, not everyone has such helpful neighbors, which is why it might be time for a quick P2P primer for network executives: Want to make your show popular with the fifty or so million Americans who use P2P networks? Go ahead – but keep a few things in mind.
Call off the lawyers. Your company probably employs folks who scour P2P networks and online video sites for copies of your shows in order to send out take-down notices and sue uploaders. Give them some time off to cure their bleeding eyes. People tend to get really annoyed when they find out they’re getting sued by the company they are helping with a viral marketing campaign.
On second thought, don’t call the lawyers. They will most certainly tell you that what you are about to do is illegal and that it will cost you your job. And they might be right.
Learn the lingo, but don’t overdo it. There is nothing more embarrassing than a forty-something who pretends to be a teenager. Make yourself familiar with the basics of online piracy. Crunchgear recently wrote up a great introduction. Then use what you’ve learned, but don’t go over the top. One example: Convert your video file to the pirate’s preferred file format XviD, but please don’t call it Greatshow-XviD-REpACK-PRERELEASE-ExClUs1v3-RARE-ORIGInAL-DVDRiP.avi
Get close to the fountain. Online piracy is like a river. You start with a small drizzle and end up with a huge ocean. Films and shows typically get distributed on internal servers first, then find their way to chat rooms and Usenet servers, then to private Torrent sites and eventually to the Pirate Bays of the world. Make use of the viral nature of this pyramid by getting as close to the top as possible. You probably won’t get access to any private FTP servers, but you can try to leak your show via Usenet.
Hook up with the enemy. Most movies and TV shows are leaked onto P2P networks by organized release groups. These groups are the backbone of Internet piracy, and they are in a constant cat-and-mouse game with law enforcement officials. Don’t expect them to have an official Web site with a contact form. Some of the groups do, however, list e-mail addresses in their NFO files – kind of like the credits of the P2P world.
Hire a professional. Does all that still sound too complicated? You could always recruit some help. Some of the companies who hunt down uploaders have also started to distribute promotional downloads through P2P networks. The problem is, those companies are expensive, and they want to have proper paperwork. That’s where the lawyers creep back into the picture.
Maybe you should just take another good look at your neighborhood. Chances are the teenage kid next door is swapping files right now. He just might not tell you about it. After all, you tend to call people like him criminals, remember? But I’m sure you can win his trust. A few unreleased episodes every now and then should do the trick for both of you.