Magazine article Variety

TV Wiping Windows

Magazine article Variety

TV Wiping Windows

Article excerpt


A CBS Olympics promo in the 1990s urged viewers to "Share a moment with the world." In terms of release patterns on movies and, increasingly, TV shows, the question is how many of those moments ought to be shared simultaneously.

Folks in the U.K. have already shared an entire new season of "Downton Abbey," the eagerly watched period drama, except for the final "Christmas episode." Yanks, by contrast, will once again wait till January for the third arc of PBS' "Masterpiece" to begin.

For Americans, this is a clear case of the shoe being on the other foot. Historically, U.S. movies and TV shows opened in North America first, gradually rolling out to other countries and territories.

Recently, however, that's been changing, with revised schedules and rejiggered windows, as movies become a business driven by international box office. And while it's not necessary for every TV show to day-date the world, perhaps, in an age of social media and online streaming that has in some vital respects made the Earth a smaller place - with opinions and spoilers ping-ponging back and forth across the globe - it's difficult to justify staggering premieres.

A number of media observers have reached similar conclusions - particularly in Europe, where the blogs Monday Note and Zeitgeist and Stuff have both criticized lapses between release windows as archaic and frustrating to fans.

Just anecdotally, visiting friends in London several years ago found them hungrily watching "Lost" online, unwilling to wait for it to pop up locally. And as a U.S. TV critic, it's increasingly common to hear from TV junkies abroad, seeking information about shows they're eager to see, but which haven't premiered yet on their home turf.

The TV biz - which has raced ahead of movies creatively in many respects over the past several years - has lagged behind on the issue of simultaneity, with some notable exceptions.

The poster child for global launches is surely "The Walking Dead," AMC's zombie hit. Fox Intl. Channels gambled by introducing the series at the same time in 120 countries via 200 channels, and has been rewarded with an international smash that's, appropriately, a monster. …

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