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The UK/US Broadcasting Models…

It’s interesting to look at television, and look how the format of what is being broadcast has changed in the past few years and how it varies from place to place – I’m not talking about the revolution in content that has been slowly happening since the eighties, merely the way in which that format is presented. Television in the UK and Ireland isn’t normally broadcast in the same fashion as it is in the USA. Here shows generally run week-in, week-out for thirteen weeks rather than running twenty-four weeks spread from September to June. We don’t have shows that take breaks between episodes – the next episode is generally always next week. So when Sky recently announced that it had a spate of new shows returning this and next week, I was a little intrigued.

House will be making house calls even sooner...

House will be making house calls even sooner...

The standard practice has been to stagger imports. So whereas House may be broadcast from September to June in the States with gaps, the broadcasters over here would wait to start their run in January and run straight through without any gaps, gaining ground on the American broadcast up until the finale. It was a general rule, though we’ve seen exceptions crop up in recent years – Lost is arguably the biggest example, which started broadcasting the year before last almost in sync with the US airings of episodes. But the practice generally held.

Not that this is strictly a one-way influence (or that it’s simply us adopting the American approach). The first three seasons of 24 were broadcast in the US style and Fox noticed that it was losing audience over the spaced-out run. It wasn’t exactly an episodic show you could put-down and pick-up as it aired. So, to combat it they decided to adopt the British approach: it would run non-stop (even featuring four ‘double episodes’ for extra wham! factor). It was an approach that worked, revitalising the show’s ratings. It also meant that the UK channels could air it sooner, sprinting just a week out-of-step with our cousins on the other side of the Atlantic.

It is rather disconcerting to have these shows back so soon, particularly since – from our perspective – they only finished a few weeks ago. House’s Season 5 finale aired on Sunday here, and the new season starts on Sunday. I’m not sure I like the notion of ‘gaps’ between airing episodes, I’ve enjoyed seeing everything back-to-back, with episodes aired one-after-another in a consistent fashion. But that’s just me – I’m also a little glad just to have House back.

I can figure out why this is happening this way. We live in a global age. The internet means that I can know everything that happens on House – even watch it if I am so inclined – almost as soon as it happens Stateside. I can even import the DVDs and Blurays of shows (like movies) before they are released here. That threat of piracy and of DVD importing have convinced Hollywood to open its blockbusters as close to simultaneously as possible in the UK and USA, and I reckon that that is the driving force behing this change in broadcasting patterns.

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