Australian Television has for a long time been behind the US.
Sometimes weeks or months behind. More recently, extremely popular shows such as Game of Thrones might screen around the same time as the US, though this usually means that it is only available in Australia in pay-TV format. But even at its closest, time differences mean that something showing “at the same time as the US” equates to it appearing at an impractical hour for most working Australians to see, with a replay that evening in the prime-time slot.
Sometimes, networks wait to see if a show is going to be popular before purchasing the rights. Sometimes, the process for gaining regional rights is to blame. Sometimes, a Country with a population of 24 million just isn’t a priority for providers busy trying to break into places like China.
Saturday Night Live only recently joined our main Pay-TV provider (Australia’s population doesn’t really support much in the way of competition in that area). But since it would be too weird showing Saturday Night Live on a Sunday, we get episodes 6 days after they air in the US.
This was highlighted recently following the US election. I settle down to watch the SNL episode following Trump’s victory, only to get the SNL that aired in the US before the election. The performers giving parodic snipes at Trump with the light of hope and confidence that he could not possibly win still shining in their eyes.
It was actually a bit sad to watch.
What makes it worse is that the moment SNL does something cool or controversial, social media is all over it. As I write this, the SNL episode with Chappelle hosting is still 3 days away from airing in Australia, yet I already know he will be doing a skit around The Walking Dead, having seen posts about it flooding Facebook, Twitter, and various websites including Australian news websites. I know Kate McKinnon will do a tribute to Leonard Cohen in her Hillary persona.
John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight screens on a Monday evening here. But even though that gap is shorter, I frequently learn the gist of the episode through social media posts and, again, local news sites.
Our local news sites cannot see an episode of Game of Thrones air without having an article appear discussing its contents. The Walking Dead is not much better.
Well guess what. There are 3 types of people.
1 – Those that have already watched the episode, meaning that your article is not news to them.
2 – Those who haven’t seen it yet (perhaps busy that night, recording it for later) meaning you are throwing up spoilers.
3 – Those who don’t watch the show and therefore do not care.
Well, if you don’t want it spoiled don’t read the article.
At worst, the article headline and associated thumbnail pic is enough to do the damage. eg: GoT rape scene most controversial yet (with a picture of the victim’s character in the thumbnail).
At best, the headline and pic starts to set expectations. eg: Walking Dead Premiere has fans furious – or – Alec Baldwin Trump portrayal absolute gold!
Have you ever had someone tell you about a movie that you haven’t seen yet. Where they loved so they build it up. You go to the film all enthused only to find that the film fails to live up to the unrealistic expectations that you ended up having?
That. Every single week for your favourite TV shows.
No wonder Australia is regularly spoken of as the world leaders in online piracy.
You can try and bury your head in the sand to avoid the posts about your favourite shows, but that effectively means totally disconnecting from all forms of social media, and probably avoiding any current events TV or radio broadcasts as well.
I saw something recently about using filter words on Twitter to block trolls and immediately thought, if only I could add filters for my favourite TV shows across social media to block all these posts spoiling or at least making it impossible to watch shows on my own terms. Maybe that will become a thing.
Then there is streaming content. Netflix only launched in Australia in 2015, already enjoying success in other countries. Some American subscribers had already merged with their couch by this time. Local providers (the same clowns that wont bring most shows to Aus TV until long after they appear in other countries) launched competing streaming networks purely in fear of Netflix gaining a Monopoly, and the scramble to claim rights for streaming content in Aus began. The outcome was multiple watered-down service providers, each offering a fraction of what US Netflix subscribers take for granted. While a basic Australian Neflix sub costs $8.99 mth (AUD) compared to $7,99 mth (USD).
Now in cost, current exchange rates would mean $8.99 AUD works out to $6.77 USD, but this is for a fraction of the content. Gizmodo had an article dated Jan 15 which states that USA Netflix had 5760 TV and movie listings, while Australia has just 2092.
Yup, can’t understand why Australian pirate stuff. Nope, no idea.
Things may be improving in that area, though. Netflix is KILLING the local competition. Another article (from Roy Moran research this time) dated June 2016 shows Netflix having 1.8M subscribers, with its two competitors Stan having 332K and Presto 142K. Add to this more recent news that Presto (owned by our Pay-TV provider, Foxtel) is closing down the Presto service from January.
Whether the removal of competition will help improve Netflix’s offering remains to be seen, as the company does appear to be more focused on developing content than mucking about over regional rights over existing content.
But once again, it is the Australian viewers left railing against inequity.
Yeah, first world problems. I know. Poor little Aussie can’t watch his HD TV shows the way he wants to. Boo hoo.
But sometimes even those of us facing nothing more potent than first world problems have to vent just to stop it all from building up. This is my vent.
And if any readers here belong to the group of “journalists” that post about TV shows as if they were news…… well, my own blog guidelines prevent me from telling you what I really think of you. Perhaps you should just use your imagination.