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U.S. series open earlier in Europe

Fear of piracy, techno developments prompt change

Hit U.S. TV shows are airing in Europe with ever-shrinking windows as technology and fears of piracy change long-established business models.

Keeping up with those changes is becoming an increasingly important feature of the global TV business, producers and other industryites heard Wednesday at Meeting Point Television, a sidebar of the Gothenburg Film Festival.

Producer Steve Stark, whose shows include USA Network’s new series “Fairly Legal” and CBS’ long-running show “Medium,” said the practice of fast-tracking the international release of shows was becoming increasingly common.

He produced “The Event” — a political thriller with a sci-fi twist — which sold worldwide before its U.S. release. It screened in Italy just 24 hours after its NBC bow, in Poland within 48 hours and in territories that included Australia, Iceland, South Africa and Sweden within a week.

“This is a relatively new phenomenon designed for high-profile shows or those at risk of piracy,” Stark said in a keynote speech.

The degree to which new technologies and content delivery platforms are changing the business was reflected in the use of the Internet for the show’s pre-launch teasers, a preview at San Diego’s Comic-Con convention for graphic novel fans, and the live Twitter feeds Stark and other key figures from the production took part in following its launch on NBC.

Although the use of new media platforms for advertising and delivery was a network decision, producers can influence the process, he said.

There had been plans for three-minute Internet webisodes to build buzz around “The Event” that Stark and his creative team vetoed as they were not sure it would drive new viewers to the show, which NBC has since cancelled.

The spread of platforms and audience fragmentation is creating challenges for measuring auds on both sides of the Atlantic.

Lene Heiselberg, audience and media researcher at the Danish Broadcasting Corp., said the TV industry faced an economic and logistical hurdle.

“It is a huge job to insert sound codes for content that is now streamed across many different platforms,” she said.

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