Global Scale

Technology is moving us closer to ‘event television’ on a global scale. Social media, a barometer for opinion, has changed the way we view television and broadcasters are pushing the envelope in terms of production and marketing to open up new channels of engagement with shows like Doctor Who.

While there are still problems in terms of social media such as second screen viewing – where even the smallest delay between original broadcast and fans consumption leave audiences with no option but to ‘go dark’ – and that’s not to mention spoilers; international viewers cannot say that their opinions have been ignored.

Ewan Spence of Forbes has been looking at how Doctor Who has regenerated television through social media. (Katerborous)

Forbes (8/30/14): Anyone keeping even half an eye on media trends in the last few years will be aware of the terms ‘event television’ and ‘second screening’. Television has always been social, but the twenty-first century has seen social groups remaining connected around the world through technology. That places unique demands on broadcasters, but it also places demands on the fans.

How can you join in the global discussions of a TV show if you can’t watch it live?

Outside of sports or major cultural events, there are very few programmes that are simulcast around the world. That said, big shows are starting to get air dates in international markets within a week of the initial broadcast, and some of the big hitters (such as HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’) will get that rebroadcast within twenty-four hours.

And then there’s Doctor Who.

Doctor Who, Deep Breath (image, BBC)

Last week’s premiere episode of Season 8 (strictly speaking the thirty-fourth year of production) was broadcast at 7.50pm in the UK on BBC 1. As soon as possible after the initial UK broadcast, channels around the world, including those in Germany, Switzerland, Turkey, Finland, Poland, and Austria broadcasted the episode ‘Deep Breath’, with BBC America joining in seven hours later with an evening broadcast at 9/8C.

It’s a far cry from the eighties where television stations could wait years before broadcasting the latest ‘hit show’ from another territory. Dedicated fans would wait for weeks to have a VHS video sent over from an obliging fan on the other side of the Atlantic, but that was still measured in weeks, if not months.

Same day broadcast is not enough for many fans. Even a five minute delay between the original broadcast and fan consumption destroys the ability for a successful social second screen experience. Why would you follow a stream that tells you what’s going to happen five minutes into your future? The choice is relatively clear-cut. Go dark and disconnect until after the show… or find  way to watch the show live.

That’s what countless fans did last weekend as Peter Capaldi took on the lead role of The Doctor, and I’m sure the fans will be doing the same this week as he goes ‘Into The Dalek.’

I asked the team at Twitter analytics platform to have a look at the location of Doctor Who related tweets over two main transmission times – the live UK broadcast from BBC 1, and the live US broadcast from BBC America.

Doctor Who Tweets Around Uk and US Transmission (data: SocialBro)

Let me highlight the numbers from Brazil and the USA. Doctor Who aired at roughly the same time in those countries. Yet the US engagement numbers are far higher during the UK broadcast than the expected background chatter – Brazil’s fans maintained a consistent chat throughout the day, while US fans spiked around the same time as the UK fans watching the live broadcast.

The obvious conclusion is that a significant number of US fans are watching online through dubious means.  🙂

There are a number of factors that are going to get in the way of a direct answer to the question of how many fans do this. The sample size is a 5% sampling of the data extrapolated to 100% numbers, and of course fans will talk about Doctor Who outside of the program (every Saturday is Capal-day in the Spence household now!). But it is happening.

Part of the design of the internet is route round obstacles, Originally that was thought to be physical damage, but when you have dedicated fans who want to join in a global conversation, they’re going to use the internet to route round that obstacle as well.

The BBC is to be commended for doing their best to synchronise broadcasts around the world of Doctor Who, and the broadcast partners should also be commended (especially ABC in Australia, who do a genuine simulcast with the BBC at 4.30am in the Australian morning for the dedicated fans, before a more sociable repeat Sunday evening).

The problem of second screening, spoilers, and international viewers has not been ignored, but addressed head on. The answer that is offered now is far better than the answer offered to fans five years ago, and I suspect it will continue to improve until ‘event television; on a global scale will see live as the default position, and not reserved for ‘the very special episodes’.

The internet is not destroying television but it is changing television. That it is doing it through a fifty-one year old program that has continued to push the envelope of production, marketing, engagement throughout its history; with a mercurial central character who has two hearts, a screwdriver, and a love of everything; is just… fantastic.

Kasterborous: What can be drawn from the data is that the BBC and its fellow broadcasters around the world should be commended for catering to fans who do want to synchronise their viewing.

The advancements in technology and marketing have been a massive help for the show, evidenced by the Deep Breath screening, which was broadcast at 7.50pm in the UK, then as soon as possible after that on channels around the world, including those in Germany, Switzerland, Turkey, Finland, Poland, and Austria, with BBC America joining in seven hours later with an evening broadcast at 9/8C.

Doctor Who is at the perfect vehicle to advance smart broadcasting.



About mydoctor1962

Doctor Who fan like few others. Also a fan of Science Fiction, Cooking Shows and more.

Posted on September 13, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: