The delay in showing American shows in the UK excludes British viewers from the conversation around them and encourages piracy.
Gotham. Arrow. Agents of SHIELD. Constantine. The Flash. Hell, Star Wars Rebels – there’s plenty of shows I’m excited for coming up in the next month, if I didn’t live here in England. At the moment, it’s sort of like looking into the great unknown. Outside of Rebels, none of the above shows actually have Broadcast dates in the UK yet (and even then Rebels has only been confirmed for its première episode, not the season that starts 10 days after that première in the US), and some like Constantine don’t even have broadcast channels yet. American fans of course, know when these shows will be on – Gotham and Agents of SHIELD have already started this week!
I’d add to this list my particular aggregation that the current season of Person of Interest is showing in the US at the moment yet Channel 5 won’t be showing the previous one until next year.
This is not just a matter of being impatient – though I am – but also of the fact that as Whitbrook points out it takes away part of what makes such shows so enjoyable:
Television has always been a social beast, but these days even solitary viewing has become surprisingly public through the rise of Social Media – live-tweeting episodes no longer is in the confines of the public themselves, creators and broadcasters are taking it on themselves to update social media with a play-by-play of an episode as it goes out. The water-cooler moment of a show doesn’t need to wait for the water-cooler any more, it’s instantaneous, out to millions of voices on the internet. Discussion is crucial to our enjoyment of fiction, we love to extol what we loved and vilify what we hate – and having access to a massive audience to share those opinions with at the touch of a button is addictive. It helps elevate watching something into an event.
So whilst everyone else is off talking about these shows, we have to slam our hands over our ears and hope we don’t hear too much whilst Channel 4, Channel 5, Sky One and others hold back broadcast. No one ever wants to be the person who turns up late to the conversation.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The long gaps between US and UK release dates for films are largely a thing of the past. And there are some shows like Dr Who and Game of Thrones which are now shown just hours apart on both sides of the Atlantic.
My fear is that unless that becomes the norm, the void will be filled by piracy and that will leave the legal market for these shows in the UK being too small to make it worthwhile for broadcasters to buy them. If that happens they will have only themselves to blame.