How Fast-Tracking Has Hit The Slow Lane

Fast-tracking shows so that they're broadcast in Australia soon after their first appearance on US or UK networks is an obvious strategy to try and cut down on BitTorrent downloads. Unfortunately, it's not a strategy that networks appear to apply with any consistency.

The phrase "fast-tracking" is often deployed rather loosely; if a show has been delayed by several weeks, there's nothing particularly fast about it. While there'll always end up being some gaps in fast-tracked shows -- most US comedy and drama series have a few scheduled breaks during the course of normal broadcasting -- those gaps often get exaggerated to fit local broadcast schedules.

My personal current source of fast-tracking irritation is Glee on Channel Ten. When the new series started, Ten was broadcasting episodes within hours of their first appearance on US TV, essentially placing them in the first available prime-time slot. I was very impressed. But then the Commonwealth Games came along and Ten threw all its regular programming out the window. Now there's a fortnight-long delay.

I've stuck with watching the episodes as they're broadcast (or recording them on my PVR), but many Gleeks I now have returned once more to the speedier route of Channel BT. And after all that effort, the Commonwealth Games weren't exactly a ratings blockbuster anyway.

Ten may have given up quickly, but at least it tried. TV Tonight notes this week that while Channel Nine promised to fast-track the shows Sh*t My Dad Says and Mike & Molly when it acquired them earlier this year, it now says they won't appear on Australian screens until 2011. There'll be no excuse for describing them as fast-tracked then.

Networks treating viewers with contempt has been a recurring theme for the Streaming column in recent months, and not sticking to fast-tracking schedules is a prime example of the problem. When downloading a new release show is so easy, it's also pretty self-destructive behaviour.

There are still occasional signs of improvement. The ABC, for instance, has promised to show the new Christmas special episode of Doctor Who on December 26 this year -- more or less the quickest option it has available given that the BBC will always want to show it in the UK first. That's still a considerable improvement on the delays that have been experienced with Who in the past, though the gap has been getting shorter. More channels need to follow that lead.

Got your own examples of irritatingly slow fast-tracking? Share them in the comments.

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Comments

    I don't particularly care about fast-tracking, the thing that pisses me off the most is how channel 9 is NEVER showing what's printed in the TV guide. I honestly cannot remember the last time I saw that a movie was going to be on 9 that I wanted to watch, then I go to watch it and that movie is ACTUALLY what's screening.

    The problem with fast-tracking is that we have opposite seasons to where most of these shows are made. So when they show some expensive new cracker-jack program in the US/UK fall/winter (when everyone's home snuggled up against the cold) it's spring/summer here and many people are on holiday and/or out enjoying the warm weather, instead of sitting at home watching TV. So the local network's very expensive new show does not rate as well as it would if shown in our autumn/winter. Which hurts the local networks revenue, which leaves them with less money for other new programming (both local and imported), etc.

    Given this fact of geography there is no way fast-tracking can ever really be widely implemented.

    I still use channel BT (or more recently another source that cannot be named), even when the show is broadcast the same night in Australia that I would normally watch the downloaded content. Why? Ads...

    ABC2's excellent free and ad-free coverage of The Daily Show and Colbert Report stopped me downloading them, though.

      HD

      They are now not in High Definition even when fast tracked as the HD channels are now showing re-runs!

      And most of the shows are 'chopped' by a minute or 2 to fit in the maximum allowable ads per hour.

      The ads make a show like Sherlock unwatchable on free to air - it turns an enjoyable 1hr30 into a frustrating 2 hours.

      Long live channel bt

    i still channel BT due to no HD and 5.1

    House has the same problem as Glee, knocked back two weeks by the Commonwealth Games. Then of course there's the random extra 5 - 15 minute delay caused by Ten's inability to keep to their published schedule. Honestly, they should call it the Around 7-ish Project.

    channel BT has a more flexible broadcast policy.
    It starts when I want it to.

    Channel BT also allows me to program an entire nights worth of tv shows specifically tailored to me, without ads, and in full HD quality.

    Plus, i can pause, rewind, and even fast forward the shows!

    And if i happen to fall asleep during my favourite show, i can always catch the rerun the next night.

    Fast tracked, how about not at all? My wife and I have got programs or seasons that have never been shown on oz tv.

    The other reason for using bt channel is, when I want it viewing. No more messing about with channels that don't see my programs as important (letting other crappy programs over running).

    It's only a shame that programs ain't broadcast with an actual I'd, the the good old dvr would actually be of use.

    Fast tracking is marketing bs and until the broadcasters actually understand that, they will continue to loss people to bt channel and other sources.

    There were commonwealth games on recently?

    We got FoxTel 8 years ago because the free-to-air channels showed complete rubbish. Now, with ads peppering FoxTel every 10 minutes we more than likely end up watching TV shows on the HTPC box courtesy of Channel BT. I'm always a little amazed when the free-to-air's how a Top Gear episode from 4 years ago and mention it's been "Fast Tracked"! Their contempt for their viewers is shameful.

    No HD Channels on FTA.

    Fortunately, Channel BT is HD

    I use Channel BT exclusively as a protest against GWN and WIN in regional Western Australia who STILL do not broadcast in digital!!

    Thats right, its almost 2011 and regional Western Australia only receives ABC and SBS in digital, the FTA commercial channels WIN and GWN are analogue still, with no such thing as multi-channels (eg OneHD etc) for the foreseeable future.

    Therefore, even for the odd Australian show on WIN or GWN I refuse to watch on FTA, I use Channel BT for them.

    Pretty self-destructive behavior?? wft??
    You must be kidding? The networks are the ones that are committing the self-destructive behavior. If they drive viewers to download a show because its slow tracked, fast tracked or for what ever reason. They are the ones causing their own destruction as there are less viewers to watch the adds that they get paid to show people.
    They need to hold on to what they got, fast track a show as much as possible, and explore the viewer market on-line.
    I myself never watch tv anymore as their are too many intrusive ads. I always download my tv shows, or watch them streaming as all the ads are removed.
    There are ways to advertise to people that are interested to know what the ad is telling them and to make them un-intrusive for everyone and there is a large amount of world wide viewers on-line. If the networks do not experiment with these things then they ARE committing pretty self-destructive behavior just like the music and movie industries.
    These 2 industries plus the networks have a choice to make. They can either pretend the old models still work or if its time to experiment and jump in head first into the 21st century.
    One choice will lead to their demise, the other will continue their success for many years to come.

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