‘Walking Dead’ Producer Blasts TV Execs Who Support Piracy

Gale Ann Hurd
Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images

Vince Gilligan, Jeff Bewkes among TV vets who have suggested piracy has promotional value

“Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan may want to avoid “The Walking Dead” executive producer Gale Anne Hurd at the AMC holiday party.

Though Hurd didn’t mention Gilligan by name, she issued a sharp rebuke Thursday at Variety’s Content Protection Summit to TV producers who have publicly suggested that piracy helped promote their series.

“There’s a mistaken belief by many of my peers that piracy is somehow good, that viewers will develop a habit to pay for it,” Hurd told Variety’s Ted Johnson in a Q&A at the event. “I’m not sure they really understand other than anecdotal evidence that their ratings go up that the people who pirate are not then going to choose legal downloads or legal viewing in the future.”

The rebuke came just a few months after Gilligan told the BBC in an interview after his series concluded that piracy “led to a lot of people watching the series who otherwise would not have.”

And Gilligan is hardly alone in his view. In August, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes went so far as to suggest that piracy was even better than an Emmy award when it came to HBO’s hit series “Game of Thrones.”

But at the conference, Hurd took a harder line on piracy. “It creates a habit,” she said, noting that a generation of children is growing up without receiving the education that file-sharing is essentially stealing. “I don’t think its something we should encourage.”

Fellow TV producers were just one of many different categories of individuals that she believes are responsible for curbing piracy. Hurd spoke of “Walking Dead” fans she’s engaged with via Twitter who didn’t even realize they were illegally downloading content due to slick pirate-streaming sites that mimic legitimate services. Other factors she touched on was the importance of Google doing a better job filtering search terms to suppress copyright-infringing options, as well as the Fortune 500 marketers and credit-card companies making money off advertising on those sites.

Hurd noted the issue was something she even had to contend with in her own home when she confronted her own teenage daughter illegally downloading music.

“Did you pay for this?” she recalled asking her daughter. “Would you like to continue to be clothed and fed?”

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  1. Well these are pretty standard comments. A transference of the real problem to the big bad corporations, who are portrayed as equally culpable in this entire dysfunctional debate. The part that is always left out about online piracy is that these are for-profit businesses abusing other people to make money. And it isn’t just the AMC’s of the world who lose. It is also the indie filmmaker, who can no longer make movies because the investors know they stand no chance of recouping their investment.

    While there are a few lingering cases, the entertainment industry realized long ago that going after individual downloaders was counterproductive. The focus, now, is on the site operators who are making money from piracy.

    To imply that everyone who goes to pirate sites to preview material and then purchase is just as untrue as it to say that every illegal download is a lost sale. What we do know is that the content creators have been savaged, while tech continues to flourish.

    • Jon Raymond says:

      Not everyone. But where are the stats and analysis to verify the reality? Is pirating a real issue or just a ploy for the MPAA to justify its useless existence? We can conjecture on all sides of the issue till the cows come home. Show me the proof.

  2. PS says:

    Geez. What does Gale Ann Hurd know about my consuming habits? I bought over 800 DVDs and around 150 BRs. And most of them, I either watched for free on TV, borrowed from friends or downloaded first, before deciding to buy them (of course, I also went to the cinema to see movies, but I only go to watch blockbusters in the cinema and mostly 10 movies per year). Wether I download a movie or TV show or wait 8 months until I finally can watch them on free TV in my part of the world doesn’t mean jack shit. Since I’m not one of those people responsible for ratings, it doesn’t matter one way or the other, but of course… blame and have a go at the nasty downloaders.

  3. hlang says:

    I have a really hard time listening to an executive producer of the Walking Dead preach about viewers stealing when AMC has been stealing millions from Frank Durabont for years now with creative accounting.

    He finally had to sue to try and get them to pay what they owe him. Where’s her outrage on that?

    It comes down to this. Everyone looks out for their own best interests. Don’t sit there and complain about being a victim when you live in a glass house. We all do. If you seriously think there is a piracy problem, try offering your customers a better value. Try and draw pirates into being paying customers. Offer equal access to a show world wide. Allow streaming a show the same day it’s broadcast for a reasonable fee. Put the show on a service like netflix or hulu plus within a day of it’s release. Stop doing many of the things that make people into pirates.

    I wish everyone would just stop watching your shows completely until this sinks ins.

  4. Cathy Dolbec says:

    I think the editor may have it wrong. Certainly people like David Petrarca and Jeff Bewkes seem to be relatively sanguine about piracy. However, Vince Gilligan seems to have a more balanced view. He has seemed to lament that piracy was one of the few ways to leverage the Internet in gaining exposure for Breaking Bad while it also hurt his pocket book.

  5. “Like it or not, right or wrong, “stealing” entertainment is one of the few ways the consumer feels they have a little power to look in the pretty box before they pay for it and see if they are getting the usual pile of turd or a tasty treat.”

    Carl White.

    Carl, you’re such an easy target, low hanging rotten fruit. Your cliche ridden rant about being ripped off has little to do with reality, but everything to do with rationalizing destructive behavior that destroys the ability of individuals to earn a living. Isn’t it a little “convenient” that you’ve chose to terrorize artists, whose work is desired, yet so easily taken. In the privacy of your own room. Now there’s some courageous payback for the inherent unfairness of life.

    I do find it revealing, Carl, that in all of your “points” there are no references to tech and the huge part they play in all of this.

    Ms Hurd, job well done. The reality is that many good people, who can afford to pay for creative work are caught up in a false, but highly promoted rationale that piracy is acceptable. It isn’t. This has been an incredible year for those working in music, where we have seen a surge of musicians and songwriters speaking out about the relative unfairness of the digital economy.

    Consider this an open invitation to join us on February 27th, 2014 for OneNight, OneVoice, OneMessage. We’re inviting artists, filmmakers, tv producers, musicians, songwriters, authors, photographers, video game developers, etc., from around the world to join us online.

    To find out more: http://fareplay.org/

  6. Costa Botes says:

    Piracy is payback? For what? Giving people what they want? High quality, high value entertainment that costs a ton of money to make, because it requires the input of many hundreds of highly skilled craftspeople. Freetards are so beyond selfish. It must be tiresome looking up the inside of one’s own ass all day. And btw, Vince Gilligan qualified his comments re piracy after he was quoted as ‘supporting’ it. He basically said those extra eyeballs freeloading did his business no good in the long run.

    • PS says:

      You are not making yourself popular here. I occasionally download stuff, but I also bought the Lord of the rings DVDs for the third time to get your extra Behind the scenes documentary. So a little more balanced view on people who download stuff would be appreciated. Not everyone downloading stuff would have paid for it, hadn’t it not been available to download. And not everyone downloading stuff, is refusing to buy the DVD/BR. Also money is limited. There is only so much stuff you can buy.

  7. DavidB says:

    Out come the freetards – like the Walking Dead, but dumber.

  8. People who speak out so vehemently against piracy should check a few basis first:
    1. Is my content available around the world at the same time?
    2. Is it even possible to access content in a paid way?
    3. Is it available in a subtitled way?

    You see, I live in South America and I prefer to buy my content but often times my favourite shows are simply not available at launch. The Walking Dead BTW is an exception. But e.g. Breaking Bad or Dexter can easily be a year behind. How is a fan going to sit and wait for a year when he can download it in 2 minutes? “Not available in your region” is a message I often see on Amazon and iTunes. And you can get around this only if you seriously know your tech. So, when you finally arrive at Amazon US through your vpn connection, there are no subtitles available.

    The point is, people will pay if they can access it easily and affordably, look at iTunes! Miss Hurd voices a voice from the past. Of the music executive who was very against b/c he didn’t understand how to turn all this in his favour. Sure, there will always be piracy. Let’s call that leakage and in stead of fighting it tooth and nail, just make quality content so affordable and accessible, it’s just not worth the hassle.

    • sue says:

      Bravo! Another non-USA voice with three insightful questions about availability!!! And surprise, not everyone in the world speaks ENGLISH!!!

      I pay the USDollar equivalent of 140 dollars per month for lots of mediocre programming that I have no choice about—a declining BBC, Disney and Sports because that is the only package that I can “afford”. If you want me to pay, I’ll gladly do it but not in addition to the steep USD 140 MONTHLY plus my annual TV licensing Fee in UK of GBP 139 (about USD 220!!!!). France also charges the equivalent of licensing fees with every TV, DVD recorder, and computer or tablet you buy as do most other European countries.

      So please don’t cry your crocodile tears while you are watching the surf beat against the sand in your Malibu mansion or while you are skiing in Aspen!

      And yes, I do watch all trailers that are available BEFORE I go pay USDollars 22 to see a film at the cinema!

  9. Carl R White says:


    It is pretty amazing how out of touch people like Gale Anne Hurd are with how the world actually works these days.
    One, we live in a world of literally millions of options for our time, ears and eyeballs. Many people, especially young people, simply have no way to pay for everything they want to taste. Many think of stealing entertainment like a nice afternoon at Costco strolling the aisles, tasting the free samples and walking out eventually with what you came to buy and maybe a tub of that hummus that was so good it won you over thanks to the free sample.
    Sure, some people are only going to steal, are only going to experience what they can get for free, but no one is losing money from these people as they are never going to pay for anything anyway.
    But some people are also never going to pay to taste your product but will pay up once they have stumbled in to that tasty bit of entertainment that they find has true value to them.
    I personally like to believe that most people are honest, or at least try real hard to be honest. It really makes sense if you think about it, if you keep paying good money to digest s—t that you have been promised is a tasty treat eventually you are going to quit paying for it until you have had the opportunity to confirm that what you are being asked to pay for is actually a tasty treat and not the same ole crap.
    Basically I do think piracy leads to sales, its just that if you produce crap that you used to get rich off, that business model no longer works, people will steal it, realize you offer crap in the guise of a tasty treat and toss it in the trash, but if you produce quality entertainment that offers true value, the money will come, people will pay you for it.
    Two, many people these days especially young people look at the prices we have historically paid for entertainment as corporate highway robbery. $20 for an album that has one good song, $10 for a movie that sucks, $100 for a month of cable when one can only watch but so many shows but yet you are still bombarded by commercials. They simply view this all as big giant corporate scams designed to suck every penny out of the consumer and all aided by laws passed by our elected corporate shills in congress.
    Right or wrong, stealing this entertainment that they may or may not even like or care to consume again, just simply seems like a small of way of saying, f—k you to a corrupt system and to the rich people who get filthy rich gaming this system while most of these “thieves” are lucky to make enough money to get the rent paid this month.
    Lets be honest, how much sympathy do you expect these people to have for rocks stars complaining about stealing as they fly in their private jets to the next concert that will cost their fans $75 for 90 minutes of entertainment?
    How much concern do you think they will have for rich TV and movie producers that whine about theft as they climb in to their chauffeured tinted window SUVs that will whisk them home to their gated beachfront Malibu estates?
    The bottom line is we live in a society where average people feel that everything is a scam, everything is a stinky pile of turd wrapped up in a nice pretty box by silver wrapping paper with a big red bow with the only purpose of separating them from their triple digit paychecks. Triple digit paychecks made working in a corporate system that only seems to reward those that have the luxury of being able to complain at press conferences that the people with triple digit paychecks are stealing and taking pennies from their seven digit paychecks.
    Like it or not, right or wrong, “stealing” entertainment is one of the few ways the consumer feels they have a little power to look in the pretty box before they pay for it and see if they are getting the usual pile of turd or a tasty treat.

    • PS says:

      Very well said, Carl. Couldn’t say it better. It doesn’t sit well, when people like Gale Ann Hurd (or also Costa Botes) complain about “piracy”. They should take it in stride and have a more balanced and realistic view on the issue and not feel like every downloaded item is like stealing money out of their pockets.

    • sue says:

      Bravo to Carl White for an excellent summary with which even usually law abiding “old folks” can agree! And if you think you have it bad in USA, save some sympathy for us over the pond in UK and rest of Europe. Firstly, our Cable/Premium TV rates are usually triple the average USA rate and come bundled in such a way that as an older woman I am actually paying for SPORTS and DISNEY that I never NEVER watch. Definitely feeling ripped off every time my direct debit (the ONLY way to pay in most of Europe is to have subscription taken directly out of your salary account)! Then add to that the joint stupidity of FOX in UK and the USA idiots in charge of foreign broadcast rights in a GLOBAL world! Yes, if you subscribe legally you got to watch the Walking Dead mid season cliff hanger ONE FULL WEEK after USA and ever YouTube spoilist alive!!! How boring is it to wait that week when people from USA, Canada etc are all online talking about the episode and who got away and who died and is the governor really dead and poor Herschel–but then we all knew that was coming because he had such strong episodes prior to the mid season finale!! What is wrong with this picture? What is wrong with a system that will let me watch the Shows 1 week later in UK but leaves me unable to watch it in France if I happen to be away on business that week?

      So I like my tasty treats along with all you young techies and my finances are even worse because I am living on a fixed pension!!!

      The only thing that might deter me from piracy is that for the last episode the virus put out by Violeter Technology Limited (USA) included NationZoom which wreaked havoc in my registry and meant I had to pay the equivalent of USDollars 200 to have my hard drive scrubbed and all programs and files re-installed. But not such a problem because the local geeks discounted USD 100 because I let them access the entire season from my corrupted hard drive. I guess Ms Hurd would call this “payback” for my season of piracy! However, if you big buck execs are too blind to realize that a GLOBAL audience wants to see show when they are rolled out in USA, then you have created this “monster”!

    • That’s the best summary that I have seen.
      Let’s face it

      We all got ripped off for years.
      Now it’s pay back time

      That’s just what a lot of people think.
      If they hadn’t been ripped off in the first place
      They wouldn’t think that.

  10. leodavinci1 says:

    Mz. Hurd needs to have someone explain to her just what happened to the music industry when file sharing (which is not inherently “piracy” by a legal definition) was at it’s zenith… and what happened after that when Apple came out with the iTunes store.

    The industry and its pundits all said no one would pay when they could get it for free.

    Guess that’s why the iTunes Store was such a colossal failure.

  11. So called piracy, may be the best marketing tool in existence.

  12. Talon says:

    “Hey you damn kids, get off my lawn!” (Gale Ann Hurd)

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