HBO hit ‘Girls’ beat the tech savvy pirates

Creator and writer of HBO and Sky Atlantic hit Lena DunhamYesterday evening the HBO smash hit ‘Girls’ returned on Sky Atlantic. If you are not yet initiated in the joys of the program, it depicts four 20-something girls trying to make it in New York, and all the love, lust and loss they encounter on the way.

It was produced by, written by, and stars, 26 year old Lena Dunham, who this weekend gave a great interview to the Times (£).  In the piece interviewer Stephen Armstrong notes:

“The British viewers — mainly young and tech-savvy — were downloading pirate copies [of season one] as soon as they went out stateside. This is one reason why Sky will be broadcasting each episode of season two less than 24 hours after America.” 

Guess what? It turns out that making content accessible at pretty much the same time around the world helps reduce piracy. Who knew?

Well, quite a few people, it turns out.

Steve Jobs managed to sell iTunes to the big music companies on the basis of it being the only way to ‘beat free’, and Sky/HBO seem to have done the same with ‘Girls’.

Furthermore, this week MegaUpload founder Kim Dotcom tweeted:

It has since been retweeted of 13,000 times.

Old-fashioned models clearly cannot beat piracy and technology, so big media producers instead need to find a way to harness the online excitement that can be generated across the globe about a product.  Previously a UK audience would never have heard of’ ‘Girls’, but now they not only can hear about it, but can find a torrent of it within hours of the original US broadcast.

Dunham herself is an avid user of social media, with 588,884 followers on Twitter. She uses it to engage with fans of the show, but also to take on board criticism. In particular she faced a bit of a storm online when the first series featured only white characters.  She clearly took the criticism on board, and last night’s episode saw her character dating a black man. As she said, “people will let me know on Twitter,” when there is something they don’t like.

For a young writer and producer like Dunham, social networks can deliver realtime feedback in a previously unprecedented way, allowing her to develop projects with the audience in mind. Despite the growth of DVRs and on-demand content, the second screen phenomenon of Twitter, has kept live television alive with programs like girls reaping the benefits.