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Homeland's fast-track on a slow train to nowhere?

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Claire Danes stars in <i>Homeland</i>.

Claire Danes stars in Homeland.

Putting the first 25 minutes of the Homeland series return online is supposedly going to stop us from downloading the rest.

Want to watch the first episode of Homeland season 2 before it screens on Australian television? Quick, click here. Don't worry, it's not some dodgy web stream or illegal download. It's Network Ten's way of trying to keep us happy until Sunday night. 

Homeland returned in the US on October 2. In Australia, Network Ten is "fast-tracking" it to screen on October 14. It's easy for your sense of entitlement to go into overdrive at this point, but 12 days is not too bad in terms of turnaround times. We had to wait months for season 1 to screen locally and in the bad old days we often had to wait years for shows to make it to Australia. Even then the networks would treat us like idiots -- starting shows late, slipping in repeats and stopping mid-series to claim it was the final episode. Nine's treatment of Star Trek had many viewers calling down Klingon curses on The Footy Show.

Ten's efforts with Homeland still fall short of the ABC's efforts in putting Doctor Who on iView as soon as it screened in the UK, and then running it on television six days later. Meanwhile Foxtel's "Express from the US" efforts are showing hits such as Sons of Anarchy within a few hours of screening in the US. These are fantastic initiatives but I don't think we can expect that kind of treatment for every show. Realistically I don't think it's unreasonable to wait a week or two so the networks can fit shows into their schedules -- but we all know that delay will blow out with time. Networks have been quick to abandon fast-tracking efforts in the past.

What's really odd this time around is that Ten has already put the first half of Homeland's new episode up on its website. You even have to sit through a few advertisements before it plays. I'm wondering how many people would be prepared to only watch the first half of a gripping drama like Homeland and then not go the extra step of typing "Watch Homeland" into Google to find the rest. It's a very strange decision which reinforces the idea that the networks are out of touch with reality. If anything the move only brings attention to the fact that Ten's fast-tracking efforts aren't as fast as we'd like.

Of course we all know that the networks tend to give up on fast-tracking pretty quickly and fall further behind. Then they move the show to another time slot or unexpectedly screen a double-episode. Next thing you know you've missed an episode. It's this kind of appalling behaviour by the networks which drove most people to BitTorrent in the first place, rather than the desire to see episodes sooner. Then there's the annoying habit of plastering promos for other shows on top of the show you're trying to watch -- Nine's efforts during the Beaconsfield telemovie completely destroyed some scenes.

Fast-tracking TV shows won't solve the network's problems, because people don't simply want to see their favourite shows faster. They want to see them intact. Unfortunately the networks are butchering TV shows more than ever, seemingly in an effort to counter the effects of downloading. But once you've had a taste of BitTorrent it's hard to go back to letting the networks call the shots and ruin your favourite shows.

2 comments so far

  • It's funny isnt it. Great shows dont seem to work on Australian commercial TV for many of the reasons you have outlined above. They still treat us like idiots. Breaking seasons up, advertising new episodes, but showing countless repeats. Breaking Bad, my all time favorite TV show would never work on commercial TV (probably would not be allowed on it anyway) so people have decided to watch it through the internet. Seems stupid to me. They have the second channels that could be devoted solely to these sorts of shows instead of playing re runs of Gilligan's Island. They would get a following eventually. They just need to do it.

    Commenter
    bzzz
    Location
    Syd
    Date and time
    October 10, 2012, 10:46AM
    • Are Australian TV channels the only ones that have their advertising sprawled over the show itself - the constant "popovers" advertising something else ?

      One of the reasons I like to download shows is that you get to watch the show without the other distractions. Take the football for example Commentator: " ... another great try by the Manly winger ... tune in tonight to see the latest episode of Blah, Blah Blah .... " it is just pathetic. I am happy to watch commercial TV and endure the advertising but I am not prepared to watch advertising in the vain attempt to see a TV episode squeezed in. I thought that there were rules about how much advertising could be displayed during certain periods, these techniques must be a way around it - time for it to stop.

      Commenter
      cyclo
      Date and time
      October 10, 2012, 1:15PM
    • Some US networks do it on their shows too - probably where Aussie networks got he idea from (sheep mentality). I don't mind a small banner across the bottom or top of the screen, but when it is splatter all over and with a voice over advertising it, it just ruins that moment onwards.

      Commenter
      Jez76
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      October 10, 2012, 3:45PM
  • Can we be very clear in future conversations about fast tracking that 'slipping in repeats' is not something that is necessarily the fault of the local networks. There are many breaks in US programs through out their seasons. In the US, Modern Family had a break last week and a double this week. It's good that Aus networks are fast tracking but let's not turn on them when our favourite show goes 'missing' for a week.

    Commenter
    Douglas
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    October 10, 2012, 10:55AM
    • This is true, the Australian networks are at the mercy of their US counterparts. That's also part of the reason for the fast-tracking delay. But let's not pretend that the Australian networks only screw with their line-ups due to US schedule changes. About 15 years ago I interviewed Channel Ten programmer David Mott for a Green Guide story on why the networks butcher TV shows, mess with the schedule, stop series early and show them out of order. His reply;

      "I suppose it depends how you define a series. At the end of the day we define what the series is or what it isn't." 

      That kind of arrogance, in a nutshell, is why people started downloading TV shows.

      Commenter
      Adam Turner
      Date and time
      October 10, 2012, 11:31AM
    • Agree with this point for shows fast tracked in under a week. But, it is inexcusable when shows are run locally weeks or months after they air in the states/UK.

      I have also wondered about how fast tracking would affect our ratings system (and therefore the price the networks can charge for advertising)? My understanding is that the US ratings period is different to ours because their summer is mid year. That is why new US TV seasons start in September (kids are starting the school year) and have a mid season break over Christmas (fewer people watching so ratings naturally deteriorate) then start in February again.

      Maybe I'm wrong, but if a network can make more money from advertisers based on ratings then showing something like Homeland during our ratings period makes financial sense to them.

      Of course, I just want my shows aired ASAP!! :)

      Commenter
      MrLarry
      Date and time
      October 10, 2012, 12:07PM
    • Amen to that brother. I started on torrents because of Channel 9 and the way they butchered the scifi shows - Star Trek, Farscape. And well done to ABC for "getting it" with Doctor Who. Remove the need to download and we won't. Treat us like crap, well.... don't complain when choose alternatives.

      Commenter
      whatever
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      October 10, 2012, 1:21PM
    • I'd disagree that "breaks" are actually that common in US televison outside public holidays or major special events. The networks have 44-46 weeks of primetime programming to fill in the main season whereas most network dramas will have a season fo 22-24 episodes, so it's common to show two separate blocks of a dozen episodes each, separated by up to three months. But they are remarkably consistent, to Australina eyes at least, at sticking to a schedule. "Revenge" currently screens at 9PM on Sundays in the US, and I'd be very surprised if one new episode doesn't screen each and every Sunday at that time without fail from now until christmas.

      Commenter
      DisDis
      Date and time
      October 10, 2012, 1:36PM
  • A good point well made, Adam. I enjoy watching a show once a week on network television for a number of reasons, one of them being the water-cooler talk in the office in the following couple of days (Homeland was great for this).

    I couldn't agree more that scheduling chaos leads to downloading (not saying it's the primary factor, but it certainly doesn't aid the network's cause). I'm normally very anti-pirate, however if I've missed an episode of one of the two or three shows that I watch religiously, I have no compunction to go find it on the net. Using a PS3 as a PVR, generally the only reason I'll miss a show is because it has all of a sudden changed to the other end of the week or from primetime to ohmyGod-o'clock.

    The networks are most certainly out of touch with reality and are desperately trying to recover the dwindling profit margins. In this misguided process, they're just further alienating their audiences.

    Commenter
    Jez
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    October 10, 2012, 10:57AM
    • A point well made Jez. Totally agree. I am also anti-pirate, but when an episode of a good show that was aired on 'free-to-air TV' is shunted to another day or time due to network scheduling antics, I am all for getting a quality download online if I missed it. The networks' online episodes cannot be easily streamed to TV and cannot be downloaded. It's incredibly inconvenient having more than one person crowd around a computer screen to try and watch a show, let alone hear the dialogue.

      Commenter
      pplmatter
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      October 10, 2012, 2:18PM

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