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