Aussies upend model for airing U.S. series

Fox product to get day-and-date airing

SYDNEY — Paybox Foxtel’s historic joint firstrun deal has re-ignited the debate about the delayed telecast of Stateside content with the paybox promising an Aussie first — day-and-date airing of Fox product.

Its partner in the deal, Network Ten, has been more circumspect. Ten’s program topper David Mott says, “There may be programs where it makes sense for Ten to go virtually day and date where we want to capitalize on the hype and publicity of a global launch.”

Oz’s TV ratings run from February to November each year, so it made sense for the webs to bow firstrun U.S. fare some six months after the Stateside debut. But with the Internet offering episode guides and peer-to-peer files available immediately after a series plays in the U.S., the thinking has changed.

“Information on programs is now so easily obtainable that fans are getting storylines at the same time the shows are broadcast in the United States, so from a marketing perspective it makes sense for us to go day and date,” says Foxtel’s TV and marketing topper Brian Walsh.

Move is a logical one for feevees like Foxtel, whose aud grows in the summer just as it does among U.S. cablers. Mark Kaner, topper of 20th Century Fox Television, has said he considers TV biz a year-round affair. Fox launched “So You Think You Can Dance” over the summer and will preem the Mark Burnett/Steven Spielberg skein “The Lot” before the sweeps.

But Ten topper Grant Blackley sees some upside to waiting. “Too often, a new Hollywood series runs only a few weeks before the U.S. network cancels it,” Blackley told an advertising summit last year. “That would leave us here in Australia with a significant hole in our schedule, a number of disgruntled viewers and justifiably disappointed advertisers.”

But many are taking the leap despite qualms. Seven bowed the soph series of hits “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost” ahead of the ratings period this year.

“We are moving towards a 52-week television year, but we suspect the issue of simultaneous scheduling is more challenging and complex,” says Seven’s Simon Francis. “Scheduling to coincide with the United States represents some specific challenges for Australia: We’re in our summer, we have significant segments of primetime allocated to sports coverage, and I suspect no one in television would like to pursue a strategy of scheduling untried programming in such a competitive landscape.”

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