The promise of digital media is that it can last forever, pristine and undisturbed by the forces of entropy constantly buffeting the material world. Unfortunately, a mess of online DRM and license agreements means that we mostly don’t own the digital stuff we buy, as most recently evidenced by the fact that Sony is about to delete Mythbusters, Naked and Afraid, and tons of other Discovery shows from PlayStation users’ libraries even if they already “purchased” them.
The latest pothole in the road to an all-digital future was discovered via a warning Sony recently sent out to PlayStation users who purchased TV shows made by Discovery, the reality TV network that recently merged with Warner Bros. in one of the most brutal and idiotic corporate maneuvers of our time. “Due to our content licensing arrangements with content providers, you will no longer be able to watch any of your previously purchased Discovery content and the content will be removed from your video library,” read a copy of the email that was shared with Kotaku.
It linked to a page on the PlayStation website listing all of the shows impacted. As you might imagine, given Discovery’s penchant for pumping out seasons of relatively cheap to produce but popular reality TV and documentary-based shows, there are a lot of them. They include, but are not limited to, hits such as: Say Yes to the Dress, Shark Week, Cake Boss, Long Island Medium, Deadly Women, and many, many more.
“Is there a way I can save this content?” asked one panicked PlayStation user on Reddit. “I use PS4…But I have bought many seasons of shows such as Dual Survival that I do not wish to lose. I was actually under the impression since I owned it, I wouldn’t ever lose it…”
Movies and TV shows first came to the PlayStation Network in 2008 via the PS3. At the time it was possible to transfer the content you bought between devices for viewing on things like the PlayStation Portable. Sony removed that option beginning with the PS4 and beyond. Now, essentially anything you buy on PSN, whether a PS5 blockbuster or, uh, Police Women of Cincinnati, is essentially just on indefinite loan until such time as the PlayStation servers die or the original copyright owner decides to pull the content.
This isn’t the first time Sony has done something like this and it won’t be the last. I’d say just buy your favorite shows on Bluray instead, but Sony and Microsoft also appear to be planning to slowly phase out optical disc drives in the future. Even the new PS5 slim’s detachable disc drive will require an online DRM check every time you plug it in. Fortunately, generic Blu-ray players are cheaper than never. Unfortunately, they don’t really print discs of Pregnant Behind Bars Season 1 anymore.