Networks still don’t get it

From The Age:

TV program delays ‘turning viewers into pirates’

Huge delays in airing overseas TV shows locally are turning Australians into pirates, says a study conducted by technology lawyer and researcher Alex Malik.

It took an average of 17 months for programs to be shown in Australia after first airing overseas, a gap that has only increased over the past two years, the study found.

The findings were based on a “representative sample of 119 current or recent free-to-air TV series or specials”, said Malik, who is in the final stages of a PhD in law at the University of Technology Sydney.

He was previously a legal counsel for the Australian Recording Industry Association, as well as a senior legal officer at the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

Malik admitted there had been some signs of progress recently – programs such as The O.C. air within days of being shown in the US – but he insisted the overall delays had become longer.

“Over the past two years, average Australian broadcast delays for free-to-air television viewers have more than doubled from 7.6 to 16.7 months,” the study reads.

Malik also studied comments by TV viewers on various internet forums, and concluded: “These delays are one of the major factors driving Australians to use BitTorrent and other internet-based peer-to-peer programs to download programs illegally from overseas, prior to their local broadcast.”

He goes on to criticise Australian broadcasters for their apparent unwillingness to allow shows to be downloaded legally online.

“While film and music content owners have increasingly attempted to cater for digital consumers … Australian TV networks continue to appear to be unable or unwilling to change their programming policies or provide new digital based options for consumers unwilling to wait to view their favourite TV programs.”

Overseas, services such as Apple’s iTunes Store offer downloads of numerous shows from most of the major US networks, but this is not yet possible in Australia.

Network Ten is making some headroom here – its recently revamped website will soon offer entire programs for download as soon as they air, said Damien Smith, the network’s general manager of digital media.

“For some programs there will be the availability of full episodes, for others it will be highlights and short clips, for other programs it will be additional web-only content,” he said.

Ten has already experimented with TV show downloads, recently offering the series two premiere of Supernatural as a free download five days before its first airing.

ABC also offers a number of its shows for streaming through its website.

I was most interested to discover that the average delay had increased, from 7.6 to 16.7 months in just the last two years. The impression is that the networks have been aware of the problems of the world becoming a smaller place with increasing connectivity – and I’m sure this is at least in part due to the crowing they do about showing episodes so soon after they go to air in the US – but it seems the opposite is the reality.



  1. The problem is Networks are interested in selling advertising, the audience simply dosn’t count. It is the “perseption” of audience that matters. If they have highlight to advertisers that a programme has such and such an audience and that advertiser buys into it. It doesn’t matter whether that audience is there or not.

  2. catbrain says:

    fourthof5: agreed – generally, the programs are only there to get the audience through to the next ad; except in cases where certain programming is legislated, such as news. I do find it interesting that Ch10 didn’t offer any ads, even on a trial basis, for the downloads of Supernatural – you’d think there’d be at least one company out there willing to give it a go.

    Do you think perhaps a reason that networks aren’t offering more programs/content for download might relate to the relatively crap speeds and limits we have here? Broadband take-up has certainly boomed in the last 12 months, but high-speed/ADSL2+ is still quite expensive and most download limits are pretty lame – if you’re using torrents or the like you also chew up your limit with upload. The downloads for Supernatural also require a certain spec and if you don’t meet it, you get audio but no video.

  3. Obviously I haven’t read the reports of his study in detail, but I fail to see how it could be anything but subjective at best.

    A representative sample of which shows? From where?

    We have a much smaller market here than say the states. Not everything from there makes it into the screen here at all. How is that counted? Or is it just comparing shows that screened here over the past two years? If so does it take into account that most shows have a drop in ratings as they go on?

    From experience I would suggest most shows seem to come on with around the same lag – Fall season shows start here in Feb or maybe mid year.

    You can make stats do whatever you want (87% of people know that). I think the main difference is people are far more involved with television and have more idea of what is going on, thanks largely to the internet. And that gives more people the opportunity to say ‘why aren’t seeing this, why aren’t we seeing that?’

    Some shows seem to take a while (Extras Season 1), some seem to come quick (Extras Season 2), but it doesn’t feel much different to me.

    Am I alone on this? Does anybody else think the study is more likely flawed than accurate? Or does everybody else think ‘yeah, there’s much more lag – that’s why we’re all pirates’?

  4. No I have the feeling there are some flaws in it. From my expirence shows are a few months different between the states and here. the exception of anything SF. SF is treated horribly by the networks here. BSG (Battlestar Galactica) is still in the second season here and is nearly finished its third in the states (that includes a couple of months hiatus).

  5. That’s complete correct about sci-fi – lucky if it gets shown at all.

    But using BSG as an example – 10 tried it in a prime timeslot, then it has been shunted around to different timeslots and stuck in as a summer fill. Obviously any treatment of this sort this will increase the lag time.

    There are heaps of shows like this that kind of linger in the schedules with no real homes and there are constantly new shows starting which this happens to. Again, we have a much smaller market and not everything gets shown.

    You could start his study at any point and jump forward 2 years and claim lag time was on the up.

    He singles out the O.C., but look at Jericho. It was the other day and date program, 10 screening it within 24 hours of the US. But it has already started back in the states and no sign of it here. Does this prove his theory that lag time is increasing? (My God! That means in just 6 months lag time has increased from less than 24 hours to 3 weeks, 4 weeks, or however long it takes 10 to get off their arses and show it. It’s out of control! etc, etc)

    Or is this simply an example of the way television here works?

  6. catbrain says:

    I agree Ross – it’s a piss-poor article but was useful for generating discussion.

    I don’t feel that lag times have increased at all… as you say, more people are aware of what’s going on and as a result more people complain. Yes, we have a much smaller market which means much less revenue and if a network picks the “wrong” new show in primetime here it’s not as simple as going out and trying to buy the “right” show.

    Short-season shows like Extras tend to get put on hold until a second season is available – the vagaries of 6-8 eps per season in the UK, generally 22eps per in the US and somewhere in the middle (usually around 13 eps) for local productions.

    Star Trek – The Next Generation had a regular timeslot for years on Nine – wasn’t it Tuesday nights after Nightline? This notion that the networks seem to follow, that a lower-rating show can’t have a regular timeslot, is ridiculous, particularly when there are examples such as The Sopranos and Huff. It’s probably more about the advertising revenue and the types of ads/advertisers they want for a particular slot. See, it all comes back to the ads!

  7. Well we are still waiting for Life on Mars in OZ. Its now in its second season in the UK and is perhaps one of the best shows on TV at the moment. It only has an 8 ep season, so its not like it would be a huge effort to air it.

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