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Why Can't I...? (Episode No. 317)

Frank Ahrens

UPDATED: See below.

Last year, my beloved West Virginia University Mountaineers shocked the college football world with a Sugar Bowl victory over the University of Georgia. Of course, I TiVo'd the game. The game was broadcast on Disney's ABC and, shortly after its conclusion, a 15-minute version of the game was for sale on iTunes, run by Steve Jobs, head of Apple and a member of the Disney board of directors.

The abbreviated broadcast was a bargain at $1.99 and I've watched it several times. In fact, I'm watching it on my laptop right now. Yep, we still win.

Flash foward to New Year's Day 2007.


West Virginia quarterback Patrick White, left, is sacked during the first quarter of the Gator Bowl. (AP Photo/Stephen Morton)

My Mountaineers continued their beat-down act on the state of Georgia, beating Georgia Tech in the Gator Bowl. Of course, I TiVo'd the game. When I was set to rewatch it, I realized in horror that I'd somehow deleted it, either actively or passively; perhaps when I asked the TiVo to record something else.

Bummer.

After a suitable period of moping, I thought: I bet CBS is just as digital-forward as ABC. I bet that somewhere, somehow, I can (best-case to worst-case scenerio) a) buy a digital copy of the entire game, b) see a digital copy of the entire game, c) buy an abbreviated version of the game or d) see an abbreviated version of the game. ESPN.com highlights just weren't cutting it.

I have been trained, in this age, to get what I want, when I want it. I'm willing to pay for it, but I expect it. It doesn't seem unreasonable, does it? After all, the Gator Bowl was broadcast in digital HD. I'm no member of the AV Club, but it shouldn't be hard to turn that into a downloadable file, should it?

However, after talking to the folks at CBS, I found out: Apparantly, it is. And it's not entirely CBS's fault.

CBS said it does offer downloads of some games, but not this one. (What, we're small potatoes?) First, it's not a big business for CBS -- it may not be worth the network's effort. But second, both West Virginia and Georgia Tech are rights-holders in the game, as well, and all rights-holders have to agree to sell the game online. In this case, no-go.

Thus concludes episode No. 317 of "What Can't I...?", an ongoing saga detailing the plight of the 21st-century digital consumer trying to hack through the dense jungle of digital rights, copyright and corporate profit to get what they want. (Cue organ music.)

UPDATE: The more I thought about this, the more it made less and less sense to me. CBS said it didn't even contemplate making a version of the Gator Bowl available for sale online. My question is: Why not? Why, in 2007, is it not S.O.P. (standard operating procedure) to make such special events -- especially sports -- available for download? CBS makes no money from me if I'd managed to keep the Gator Bowl recorded on my TiVo. But I am more than willing to pay CBS to provide me with a digital version of the game.

As more than 4 million viewers besides me tuned in for the game, seems like a missed opportunity for some found money for CBS. And some satisfied customers.

By Frank Ahrens  |  January 4, 2007; 6:20 PM ET  | Category:  Frank Ahrens
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Time to pirate it, clearly!

Posted by: andrew | January 5, 2007 7:51 PM

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