Damien on… “The Biggest TV Event Of The Year”
While TV companies have long used this phrase just to trumpet their latest blockbuster show – THIS time, it is no exaggeration.
In Asia, the RTL/CBS network are currently using it to describe the “Watchathon” (their word – they mean marathon) of season three of “House Of Cards” next Saturday (the 28th of February, 2015).
Because what this represents, is no less than a SEA CHANGE in series broadcasting…
For over a century, the film business has always KINDA had series, in the form of “B” movies like the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce “Sherlock Holmes” and George Sanders “Saint” sagas – and in Britain, various productions from Merton Park Studios.
These were not WEEKLY outings – but SEVERAL tended to be made every year.
Plus of course, you had serials – although the episodes were only around seven minutes long.
No, it took the advent of TELEVISION to introduce the concept of the weekly series. Taking their lead from network radio dramas, the fact that TV had PICTURES – gave the TV companies far more SCOPE (The Lone Ranger does not really work on radio).
And now, sixty-five years later, the One Hour (actually, forty to fifty minutes) Filmed (more likely, recorded digitally) Drama still forms the CORE of television entertainment (with lots of cheap, talent-free “reality” dross effectively financing it).
But for most of that time, viewers have been forced to WAIT a week for the next installment – particularly irksome, if the episodes form a continuous story, with a “cliff-hanger” at the end of each.
However, around ten years ago, things began to change. A NEW player entered the entertainment arena – the HOME COMPUTER.
For decades, the TV industry had banged on about how in the future, viewers would get TV On Demand – but no practical way was ever found to deliver on that promise.
Then along came Netflix…
Beginning in 1997, the company supplied programming by posting DVDs to subscribers – however, within a decade, they were moving over to the now-more-familiar ONLINE STREAMING (back in 2000, Blockbuster could have bought Netflix for fifty million bucks, but declined – whatever happened to them?)
A few years on and Netflix began financing ORIGINAL programming – the first biggie was a new, American version of the British Nineties hit mini-series; the afore-mentioned – “House Of Cards”.
However, where network TV viewers had to wait a year – and then watch the show weekly – Netflix viewers were able not only to watch it a year earlier – but ALL AT ONCE.
The thing is; several years earlier, the “serial” format of shows like “24” had led to a new phenomenon – BINGE WATCHING.
And whilst viewers did not necessarily want to set a WEEKEND aside to watch ALL 24 eps of the actioner – they were more than happy to record the entire series – avoid talking about it with those who were watching it weekly – then, when they had the whole thing on their hard drive (or a series of recordable DVDs) – watch it at their OWN convenience.
TV On Demand had finally ARRIVED.
But this was still a viewer-created thing. Only Netflix, Hula and the like would STREAM an entire series into your “Smart” TV. If only NETWORK TV could do likewise – but then, why NOT?
They could broadcast the eps late night – or over the weekend – so that people with hard drives could record whole series and then watch them at whatever pace they desired.
Which is exactly what is HAPPENING the coming Saturday, but this time – EVERYWHERE.
You see, the problem with Netflix and their brethren is – they have their limitations.
Contractual obligations only allow their programmes to be streamed to Europe and N America. Too bad, if you happen to live in the Orient, like this writer.
But with RTL/CBS having been available on the local satellite/cable platform for about a year now, the World is opening UP.
Thanks to the mere THREAT of Smart TVs STREAMING programmes (despite Thailand MAKING most of the World’s hard drives, few Thais actually OWN one) network TV companies are now FIGHTING BACK against the Online TV Industry by JOINING them in “streaming” series to THEIR viewers, UP FRONT of the weekly showings.
Over the last decade, network TV has SUFFERED at the hands of this newcomer.
Initially, the audio-visual STANDARDS (THOSE again) of the film, TV and computer industries were utterly incompatible – with each industry showing total contempt for the others.
But change is afoot. While the three industries still HATE each other, they also recognise their DEPENDENCE on each other. And so, with digitally projected movies, the next generation of HD TVs and even YouTube adopting the “4K” standard, while currently using 1080/2K (which are virtually the same) the three have called a KINDA TRUCE.
All of which is good for US, the consumers – particularly those of us who reside outside of the “developed” World.
Just a few years ago, foreign network TV’s viewers had to wait months – sometimes YEARS – for the best US/UK series. But now, thanks to the competition from the online industry, many are shown “within 12/24 hours of US/UK transmission” – and NOW, it appears we may even be allowed to watch series On Demand AS WELL.