'Dancing With the Stars,' Sarah Palin on 'Today': The Case for Global Live
In this social-media world, I'm wondering if tape-delay might have to go the way of eight-track tape and giant-tube TVs, especially for those of us in the Mountain and Pacific time zones (not to mention the folks in Alaska and Hawaii).
Take, for example, ABC's Monday-night competition show for "Dancing With the Stars." (That's Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Melissa Gilbert above.)
Unless I assiduously avert my eyes from Twitter and Facebook starting at 5 p.m. Pacific time, I will start seeing comments and links to stories about the night's dances and cannot avoid some level of spoilage.
Yes, I could log off social media entirely, but it's part of my job, and my workday is still going on at 5 p.m.. Yet, the ancient rules of TV dictate that I must wait until 8 p.m. rolls around in my time zone to watch the show (of course, there is Slingbox or one of the other ways to get around that, but that requires extra work and expense, and I resent both).
I also get the joy of being reminded throughout the Pacific time airing that the "live" show that I'm watching was live for those privileged folks in the Eastern and Central time zones -- when it was actually taking place just a few miles from where I live -- but is on tape delay for me.
Blessedly, that no longer happens for the Oscar, Golden Globe and Emmy Awards, which have finally leaped into the 21st Century and reality and air live both in the Eastern time zone and in the time zone where they're actually happening (imagine asking the denizens of Broadway to wait three hours to watch the Tonys).
As for the Tuesday-night "Dancing" results show, before I finish dinner, I can find out who was eliminated, thereby eliminating any need to actually watch the show. Granted, that saves me time on a Tuesday, but it doesn't do ABC's bottom line much good.
Whether it's "Dancing ..." or "American Idol" or any other reality-competition show featuring live elements, it may be time for the networks to bite the bullet and go live in all time zones.
Barring that, perhaps the shows could stream live over the network's Website -- which makes a kind of sense since it's Web-savvy folks that are most likely to suffer from social-media spoilage anyway. If you're not on the computer during the Eastern-time airing, you're not going to mind waiting until 8 or 9 p.m. Pacific to watch the show.
(By the way, it's great that the sharks go to the trouble to live-tweet ABC's "Shark Tank" on Friday nights. I just wish I knew what the hell they were talking about, but I don't, since they're only doing it for the Eastern/Central time airing. Stream it online, ABC!)
Then there's the question of the network morning shows, which are also tape-delayed. A former "Good Morning America" and "Today" devotee, I haven't watched any of them since I moved to the West Coast. They're three hours old by the time they air here, and if I'm going to watch news, I want fresh news, not stale news (OK, I also miss David Hartman, Tom Brokaw, Jane Pauley and Bryant Gumbel, but stale is still stale). I want to know what's going on right now, not what went on three or more hours ago.
I did give in to the temptation to check out Sarah Palin's appearance on the Tuesday, April 3, edition of NBC's "Today" show. But, I put it on the DVR and fast-forwarded only to her parts and skipped the rest. Oh, well, NBC.
When I get up in the morning, on goes a local morning show or cable news. Back in the '90s, it was all about CNN, but these days, I'm a Fox News viewer. But, I didn't start watching FNC until I moved to Los Angeles, so my experience of the channel is a little different than an East Coaster, and I suspect that's true of any Pacific-time cable-news watcher, no matter which channel you're on.
I never see FNC's morning show, because I'm still sleeping. "The Five," for me, is at 2 p.m. The 8 p.m. primetime lineup actually starts at 5 p.m.. I work at home if I'm not out on a set visit. By that time, if I've had news on as background all day, I'm tired of it after Bret Baier signs off at 4 p.m., so I put in screeners or catch up on the DVR until dinner.
Unless I make a point of putting "The O'Reilly Factor" or "Hannity" on the DVR -- usually because of a particular guest, or it's Wednesday and Dennis Miller is visiting with O'Reilly -- I usually don't tune in again until "On the Record With Greta Van Susteren" at 7 p.m. (my favorite FNC news show, along with "Your World With Neil Cavuto"), after which I'm into entertainment programming.
From anecdotal evidence, it seems that FNC's pop-culture/news roundtable "RedEye W/Greg Gutfeld" may be even more of a hit out here than it is back East, since we get it at midnight instead of 3 a.m., and some folks actually stay up for it (not me, it's my favorite breakfast viewing on the DVR).
Populations are shifting, and now with DVRs and lots of folks cutting the cable cord to stream TV over their computers and other devices, time slots are shifting as well. The toughest thing for any TV channel to do these days is to get someone to actually tune in for a show as it broadcasts the first time, whether it's a live event or the initial airing of new drama, comedy or unscripted reality episodes.
Social media -- whether through check-ins or live-tweeting -- can add to that, but the greatest value comes from the experience of bringing people together in one place, at one time. Just ask those advertisers about the eyeballs the Super Bowl delivered. Right now, for a lot of us on the Left Coast, that's often not an option.
On my cable system, some of the HD versions of cable channels are in Eastern time, so I get to see new episodes the same time as everybody back East does.
And I like it. More, please.