Is simulcasting the future of TV broadcasting?
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Written by Patsy Keating / February 1st, 2016, 1:47pm
This is a question I’ve been stewing over for a while now, ever since True Detective’s second season began last year, and I’ve heard several mixed opinions on the topic.
Simulcast television isn’t a new thing – sporting events have been broadcast simultaneously all over the world for years now. True Detective’s premiere wasn’t even the first time a major television show was broadcast in multiple regions at the same time either. In 2010, the BBC showed the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special in over 90 countries, and more recently, the ever-popular fantasy series Game of Thrones premiered its new series in the same way. Previously, shows like Lost and Fringe, which have huge international followings, have used the same technique. True Detective holds the distinction, however, of being the first show to be simulcast every single week. This means that when the show aired at 9pm Sunday in the US, it also aired at 2am Monday in the UK, before being repeated later on in Monday’s primetime slot.
True Detective was simulcast in the US and UK for its second season last year.
Is the simulcast method the future of television? I think it should be. One thing’s for certain – it would definitely have an effect on piracy levels. The season five finale of Game of Thrones, which aired on June 14th 2015, saw record breaking levels of illegal online streams and downloads since its initial airing; piracy specialist website TorrentFreak report that within eight hours of its initial broadcast, 1.5 million illegal downloads had been made of the episode. Game of Thrones holds the record for being the most pirated television show of the past three years. Wow.
There are a couple of things I blame for this surge in piracy – the first is the technology which allows us to so easily watch things in this way. Now I love the internet (really, I do.) but let’s face it, it’s a real issue in the land of movies and TV shows because of the ease with which it allows us to watch whatever we want, whenever we want to, with no real consequence – except maybe the grainy 240p quality video. Which brings me to my second point: people are just so impatient these days!
When the US gets to see the season finale of “Your Favourite TV Show” weeks, (sometimes even months) before we in the UK do, well... we just can’t stand it. Picture quality seemingly ceases to be an issue when you’re so invested in a show. I don’t really understand the point of the huge gaps between international transmissions – it only leads to the aforementioned piracy and the dreaded SPOILERS. With a hugely popular show like GoT, you just know those deaths are going to be Tweeted and Tweeted and Tweeted until... there they are, right at the height of the trending topics! Spoilers are impossible to avoid unless you live under a rock. But it’d sure be a lot easier to avoid them if we all got a chance to watch the show at once!
A couple of folks who I’ve spoken to about this said ‘That’s ridiculous. Nobody will be watching TV at that time of the morning, what’s the point?’ To this I say: the beauty of technology! Record the show at 2am, watch it when you wake up at 7. Or get home at 6. Or after dinner. Or before bed. The beauty of modern television is that it puts the power straight in the hands of the viewer. Convenience is key these days. Watch what you want, when you want, where you want – your own schedule, your own way!
The main point I’m getting at here is that there doesn’t seem to be a drawback to simulcast television. So why don’t we see more of it?