2MTL 148: Plan B for Watching Doctor Who Internationally

For about as long as I've been podcasting, I've been on the warpath seeking the international release of Doctor Who episodes as close to the BBC One airdate as possible. I'm forced to admit that may not be practical most of the time for smaller networks such as BBC America.

So here's my Modest Proposal for Plan B: more-expensive premium downloads of the episodes as soon as they've aired on BBC One, before they hit the international networks. Give a listen for the details, and let me know what you think.

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  1. I like what you're suggesting, Chip, but I worry about the practicality of it from a viewer's perspective. Writing as an American fan of Doctor Who, I can say that I want the episodes to be aired as close as possible to the original air date, if for no other reason than to stay current with the various podcasts I subscribe to, yours included. I would definitely be on board for a faster way to get my Who-fix, but I'm not going to pay $3 on iTunes or On-Demand a few days later when I could watch it on a pirate website for free the same night, albeit at a low video quality. I absolutely understand and fully support needing to recoup advertising costs for the show, and I intend to buy the box set when it's released, but it almost seems like a punishment for us hardcore fans who don't happen to live in the UK.

  2. I must say, I find all this complaining from Notth Americans slightly mypopic. In Europe we've always had to wait weeks to see American scifi shows, if we didn't want to receive them from a Torrent site.
    The one single occasion that it happens the other way around, and it's apparently unreasonable and damaging.

  3. K: I don't think of it as a punishment because there are always other options. Nobody's forced to watch the show at any particular time, or spend a particular amount of money; they just choose among various trade-offs.

  4. You make a good point, Simon. This isn't exactly a flattering defense, but there's much less American interest in European TV programs than the other way around, so the delay in receiving episodes legitimately is a subject that almost never comes up over here. That said, the Lost series finale aired pretty much simultaneously in the U.S. and in the U.K. at oh-my-God a.m., so I do think that there is some growing sensitivity to the issue on both sides of the Atlantic among studios and broadcasters. The limitations against simultaneous global distribution aren't technological anymore — it's all business.

  5. As an American who loves British television, yes, it would be nice to see Doctor Who closer to the original air date but I have no problem waiting to see it for free. I've informed my friends, who are impatient and view the episodes on the 'net, not to utter a syllable until I've seen whichever episode they wish to discuss. I guess the only thing that bothers me is that I have to read the Doctor Who Monthly based on which episode is currently showing, which means I'm rarely up-to-date with the magazine.

    With that said, by all means, provide a means for others to see the shows earlier than what BBCAmerica provides. After all, if there is money to be made and there are people willing to pay, where is the harm in it. Everybody wins.

    I am not a patient person by nature, but for Doctor Who, I'll sit quietly in the corner, twiddling my thumbs until the next episode airs.

  6. I live in Germany and as far as I know there is no way of watching Doctor Who legally except to wait for the DVD releases in the UK. So I'd definitely support this proposal and if something like this was to be done by the BBC I would gladly pay a few bucks to watch it online with minimal delay.

  7. What if they did it like Hulu does and have advertisements? Now, I'm not suggesting interrupting the show for adverts, but they often will give you the choice of watching a 3 minute commercial up front and no others throughout. The BBC could advertise other dvds or programming or things like that for several minutes and then play the show. Just another idea. Not nearly as whiny as my previous post, apologies.

  8. Chip, you forget something very important about the American Who fan and the "alternative viewing method" that in my humble opinion is the most important part of this equation. As a typical American Who fanatic, I'm not affected by the lag of four weeks initially. I am simply using modern methods to "time shift" my programs in a more literal sense. I subscribe to BBCA with my cable package and it ends up on the TIVO anyway. I also buy the DVDs and encourage new fans to also watch by use of the DVDs. My contention is that it's not as morally bankrupt to "obtain" television in alternative methods as long as, in the case of the original use of the legally acceptable "time shift" we are actually recording and advertisements are being shown to be watched. I'm too much of an old school media consumer that the idea of paying for television one episode at a time makes me want to strap rabbit ears onto the LCD and put the Ariel antenna back up on the roof. I still don't buy music from iTunes when Radio is still free. Media of this nature has always been free and I may be acting like an old Kansas farmer about these things but "it was good enough for me when I was a kid and I ain't gonna change now."

    Up until Hulu came out I've treated all digital media in the same way. It wasn't until "Terminator: SCC" aired that I even cared about words such as "viewership" or "market share" and I switched to less morally ambiguous methods of consuming television. It seems like the best method for those of you who do not share my philosophical approach to downloading media would be to try to get BBC Worldwide to negotiate a similar agreement that anime distributors have enacted. Shows like Naruto Shippuden are subtitled and aired on Hulu with a one week delay, which does not change unless the show is preempted by the original broadcast station.

    My final point is this, we use alternative methods to watch certain shows because the flaming hoops of excrement that many advertisers or network websites force one into jumping through are unnecessarily complicated/badly designed/broken/filled with annoying contrivances that push someone into not wanting to use their methods. As my wife has pointed out many times in the past "Piracy just works." One harrowing example of this is a recent attempt to procure the stunning novel by Max Brooks "World War Z." Our library has an account with Audible. We were instructed to generate a code to access this site by our librarian, which we did, and this took several attempts to authenticate our library subscription as valid, the code was issued and the website rejected it. We generated three more codes in various attempts to no avail. Finally, after contacting customer support and being told that there are no such thing as library accounts, being passed to a second tier of agents who weren't idiots and getting our issues solved, we downloaded the files to listen to our program. We then found that the files were corrupt and would have to be re-downloaded for us to enjoy, which of course would require another code from the librarian and the cycle would repeat. At this point I popped over to and the file in about 45 seconds and listened to the pirated copy.

    Like it or not, there will always be those of us who bend the rules to get what we want and with the least amount of hassle.

    As for Torchwood and Starz? They better be putting those episodes onto Netflix (which uses Starz on demand as their delivery method for digital streaming in most cases) or I'm going to be running the Jolly Roger up the mast faster than you can say , pal.

  9. Ha, I just realized that my post contained several uses of (without the spaces inside) as a literary joke which your comment site read as html code and stripped out. My bad!

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