On the 16th of November, 2009, TVNZ told an auditorium full of advertisers and media that the final season of Lost would be simulcast here in New Zealand. We clarified what that actually meant afterwards and were told that that would be as soon as physically possible after its US broadcast.
On the 20th of November, ABC announced the return date for Lost in the US as being Tuesday, Feb 2nd, 2010. We had hoped for a Tuesday which would have been perfect as TVNZ had scheduled Lost for a Wednesday night here.
On the 6th of January, it was revealed in TVNZ’s planit advertising planning schedule that Lost had been scheduled to premiere on the 3rd of February, a mere 7 hours after it had aired in America. Everyone got excited. The prospect of TVNZ screening a show so soon was inspiring. However, that inspiration has turned out to be nothing more than false hope as Lost is now returning to screens on the 10th of February.
TVNZ tried to justify the situation by telling us that
due to a contractual agreement between the Studio and the Commissioning Broadcaster our distributor is unable to release tapes of the episodes to us before the completion of the ABC broadcast in all US time zones.
I guess as the commissioning broadcaster you have every right to dictate the rules around when a show is released internationally. But hang on a second, tapes?
they have to physically take the tape to a completely different location and feed them to us via Satellite in real time.
Why not just get a file and download it? Well, as you’d expect, a broadcast quality HD episode is large. TV3 told us that it would take them close to three days to download something of that quality and would cost considerably more.
TVNZ also told us
We wouldn’t have received the master tapes until far too close to transmission (which wasn’t guaranteed in any case) meaning we would be unable to time out the schedule, effectively promote the show, add captioning and legally required classification information.
Stating that you’re going to simulcast a show to people you’re trying to bleed money out of may not be a guarantee and I guess the argument “as soon as physically possible” still holds true but for anyone thinking that things in broadcast television were showing a glimmer of hope, this situation proves otherwise.
So what does this really tell us?
1. New Zealand will never be able to screen big US television series within hours until stateside commissioners and international distributors decide to trust their international broadcast partners with advance tapes.
2. American commissioners appear more concerned about a tape being leaked by an untrustworthy international broadcaster than they are about preventing illegal downloads.
TVNZ are happy with how well Lost performs in its Wednesday night time slot and are complacent enough to leave it where it is.
One can be fairly confident that that complacency won’t be tolerated by those eager to watch the show. As such, anyone hoping for faster internet speeds on Wednesday nights may discover the opposite applies.