American dramas struggle on Aussie TV

With some television fans sourcing their favourite shows by "other means", fewer and fewer viewers are tuning in each week. Compared to just three years ago there simply aren't as many of us tuning in to free-to-air television.

That spells doom for both networks and viewers alike.

Last week the top international drama on our screens was NCIS with 1.38 million viewers. It was 1 million behind Underbelly.

It was followed by Criminal Minds on 1.33 million, Lie to Me and CSI both on 1.1 million, The Mentalist on 1.04 million, and Desperate Housewives on 1.01 million.

The most popular shows on Australian television remain Australian made, though only two (Underbelly and Packed to the Rafters) are considered high-rating dramas. The rest are predominantly factual, news and light entertainment.

As a result of diminishing returns, programmers continue to drop or move shows from schedules. Seven has decided to push 24 back to an 11pm start beginning this Sunday.

Worried that Desperate Housewives is being thrashed by Underbelly, it has also slated a marathon on Sunday March 15th in the hope of hooking in new fans.

TEN has similar problems with Dexter, now set to switch from Monday nights to late on Sundays, although in double episodes. Life on Mars will end after one season. House isn't getting the huge Aussie audience it once enjoyed.

Flashpoint has vanished from Nine. Gossip Girl lasted all of three episodes.

Some shows that have already aired on Pay Television aren't getting good audiences by the time they finally screen on free-to-air.

And while audiences don't turn up to American dramas, programmers will be quick to remove them. Meanwhile fans are fed up with having to wait and with networks moving shows around.

It's a very big Catch-22, and in the current economic climate it's not likely to improve.

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Exactly what Kalel said. Out sourcing = no ads. And the constant time changes etc gets really frustrating to the avid viewer.
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I'm a devoted fan of the Mentalist, and will definitely buy the box set when it comes out, same goes for a lot of other shows.

But I don't think I've watched Australian television once in the last year, unless it was at someone else's home. I 'outsource' the dozen or so shows that I or my family wants to watch. Because I get them fast, I get no ads, and I don't need to worry about torrent sites cancelling! I just got so sick of the changing timeslots, the late starts, the cancellations... Some things I understood, like the repeats (sometimes). Because the US has several breaks mid-season for Christmas etc. where they don't air episodes. But airing shows out of order? Moving every sci fi show that's ever on to after 10pm?

Plus heaps of the interesting shows never even make it here, such as Kyle XY, Sanctuary, Legend of the Seeker, the Tudors, Life on Mars (UK version) and surely more I haven't heard of that I would probably love.

Australian FTA simply has nothing at all to offer us.
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That's because Australia is too bloody slow in airing them! There are too many re-runs. Australian tv really sucks sometimes.
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I honestly cannot remember the last time I watched a series on free tv. Free To Air networks in this country, particularly Channel 9, shat in the faces of all their viewers, and continue to do so despite low ratings.

I realise not everything on TV is going to work in primetime, but pulling series off the air completely because they cannot find a massive audience is just insanity. At least Channel 7 move series into a later timeslot, but Nine and Ten have no excuses at all.

I buy all my series on DVD and rely on that to watch the series I like. There is no excuse for the treatment FTA networks give shows, so I have no sympathy for them.
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I have no sympathy at all for the Australian Networks. They treat their viewers with absolute contempt. I've worked internationally in broadcasting for twenty years and can state with my hand on my heart that they have the worst scheduling practices I have ever seen. The shows almost never start on time, the farce over EPGs is laughable, they cancel or move shows without informing the viewer, show episodes out of sequence, insert old episodes into new seasons without notifying the viewer. I have simply GIVEN UP even attempting to watch a show on Aussie TV. If the Australian Networks want us back then they have to commit to showing a show at the same time, in order, all the way through. It's common knowledge elsewhere in the world of broadcasting that you can not foster viewer loyalty with a show if you CANCEL IT in a knee-jerk reaction to initial viewing figures. I can deal with waiting a few weeks for the episodes to air over here but I, and millions of Australians like me, are SICK TO DEATH of being treated like this. I personally think that if BitTorrent didn't exist we would have stormed the Networks offices en-mass by now.
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I am aussie and if i like a US show I only use "other means". i hate having to wait for shows to come to free to air and then it constantly changing time slots and in some case like teen drama's they are seasons behide and you can buy the DVDs before the show even airs. I have to say FREE TO AIR for me is always my last option for watching shows. it's not the 90's anymore we have other options and we are using them
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I'm from aus, it really bugs me because our tv channels screw up our viewing, that's why i use "other means" to keep up with my shows.
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Chat live with “The Mentalist” star Owain Yeoman (Wayne Rigsby) on Fancast.com Tuesday March 17th.The chat will start at 12:00pm PT/3:00 pm ET. http://www.fancast.com/blogs/live-chat/live-chat-the-mentalist-star-owain-yeoman/
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It depends on which foreign country has the American shows first. I'm from New Zealand and we have the same problem here. Some programmes were fast-tracked because networks here couldn't find other shows to fit in. Some shows were put into repeats to get new viewers to watch the show before the next episode (or it might be some delivery issues that needs to be resolved). Take channels 2 and 3 (NZ Channels) for example, Channel 2 decided to pull the plug on 'Ghost Whisperer' (Season 4) after four episodes to be replaced by all new episodes of 'Private Practise' and Channel 3 decided to pull both 'Burn Notice' (after 5 episodes) and 'Californication' for CSI:Miami at 8.30pm(because it's very popular) and this new 'doco' at 9.30pm.



What I'm trying to say here is that, they (as in the networks) are competing with each other. Take 'Brothers and Sisters' for example. It's on Monday nights at 9.30pm (NZ Time on TV2). At the same time, 'Life on Mars' is on the other channel(TV3). Both shows are competing as to which show has the highest rating during the 9.30pm - 10.30pm timeslot. Also, some shows were fast tracked last year due to the lack of shows.



Hope this helps.
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Well if Australia would stop screwing around with american shows and give them good advertising and air them in order we probably wouldnt hve a problem
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To put it simply Aussie tv is stuffed. First 24 was on wednesdays at 9:30, and i thought finally a good timeslot, then it got moved to Sundays at 9:30 and then to 11:30 in favour of a repeat of Bones. Also what happened to Burn Notice on channel 10, they just stopped airing halfway through season 2.
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I have been recording my shows for a lot of years which enables me to have a bit of versatality with viewing. I don't download from the internet how ever some shows you cannot help but turn away from and it is 100% the networks fault. I used to watch house every week but then channel ten started showing a repeat episode whenever they felt like it inbetween the new season consequently I lost interest in the show as I personally don't like repeats If I did I would buy the box series on dvd. Also I really would like to know where the networks get their ratings from as I am 49 and have never known anyone who has ever had anything to do with ratings. Do they concentrate on people who can afford all soughts of diffent entertainments or do they also take into account people that the only entertainment they have in their life is tv , it would be interesting to see what the demographic is when it comes to decifering peoples preferences for programming. Also as others have also commenting the networks just show such utter disrespect towards the viewer with programming constantly running overtime.Also of course you are going to find that if something is shown a couple of months earlier on pay tv and you have watched it you are not going to tune in to free to air.
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That's another great point that has been raised - how shows never start on time. Just this week I sat down to watch Underbelly on Monday night and I actually stated "Wow, this is good, it has actually started less than ten minutes late for a change!" This is disgraceful. All stations do it, and it is a blatent ploy to keep you watching their network. Usually they get a popular show, and make it run ten or so minutes over. The logic behind it is if you are watching a show from 8.30-9.30 on say Channel 9, and then you want to watch a show from 9.30-10.30 on say Channel 7, that if the one on 9 runs overtime you will choose to stick with that show to see how it ends as opposed to watching the other show from the beginning, and by the time the first show finishes, they hope that you will now think "Well, I can't switch over to the other station now, I've missed too much of that episode, I'll just stick to this station." About a year ago I had Foxtel installed, mainly so I can watch all my rugby league, but the startling discovery I made was how every network (with the possible exception of live sport) runs on time. If a show says it starts at 8.30 it will start between 8.30 and 8.31, allowing you half a minute to switch channels, and all shows will end about one or two minutes before the next show is due to start. In the US everyone talks about how brilliant TiVo is, how you can set it to record your favourite shows. There was a system that could do that on a VCR about ten/fifteen years ago, and still runs today, called G-Code. You simply placed the code for your show and it would record it. But it was absolutely hopeless. Why? Was the system faulty? No, the system was great. It was that the networks never ran to time, which meant you would always miss the last five minutes because it would stop recording at the scheduled time the show was due to end. Ultimately, this practice should be against the law, and the networks should be forced to screen their shows in the time they allocate, and if they want a show to go to 9.40 instead of 9.30, the following show should be listed as a 9.40 start time. There is no excuse for running over, the networks know how long the show is - the only excuses come in live coverages - such as sport or breaking news stories, which are capable of running over.
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I watch all my shows online sorry. If I have to wait weeks to see episodes that they are claiming to fast track I will watch it online the next day after it airs in the U.S.

Oh and all the best shows they seem to screw around with mixing old episoes with new, one week it's on the next it isn't. It's too confusing.
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There are actually two reasons for the lagging. 1. in the past it took too long for a series to get here to Oz. This seems to have deminished, but the tag of arraving a year later will take some time to get rid of.

2. the big issue nowadays is timing. Channels 7,9 and 10 seem to have a problem with looking at a clock. Most of these series have a timing that is off, but over the last 2 years the episodes will not be shown on time. CSI on channel 9 is often 15 minutes late, making it hell to tape it all. Taping it with foxtel has become impossible under those terms.

So perhaps it will get better when the execs realise that 20:30 is supposed to be 20:30, not 20:37 and not 20:42.
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Aussie talkshow hosts and comedians are so old fashioned that it really don't matter what they think or how slow they are to get it.
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I would have thought, since Simon Baker is from Australia, more people would watch The Mentalist over there
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All the best US dramas such as 24, Boston Legal Dirty Sexy Money Prison Break are treated with contempt by Melbourne TV stations but Channel 7 is by far the worst. The times and days are continually changed and they are also on very late at night.I always tape them. Prison Break is treated the worst. I only got to see about 1/2 of eps 2 & 3. Channel 7 puts on a lot of rubbish or repeats of shows between 8:30 & 10:30
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Aussie made shows for the most part are crap, and Aussie networks NEVER give any show a chance in any timeslot. They want instant ratings from the first episode and if a show doesn't deliver it either buried in a late timeslot, dumped on the HD channels or given the boot completely. I source all my TV shows 'by other means', it's the only way that I'm be guaranteed to see the entire season of a show. You also don't get a few new episodes then repeats then new ones then repeats. That, and the constant time changes, is the most frustrating part of Aussie TV. Plus then there is the sheer number of o/s shows that never see the light of day here, because they have to pad out their schedules with the Aussie made rubbish and incessant Aussie reality shows. In essence Aussie TV SUCKS!
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Put the Office on earlier TEN
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Oh and also when It becomes footy season again all tv shows get bumped so we can watch a whole heap of dicks running around beating each other up. Cause THATS more entertaing.
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Its kind of hard to suport aussie TV when they either don't play the TV shows I like or they do but not untill 11:30pm or some other wierd ass time and then when they do show it its generelly repeats you may get a run of 3 new episodes and then straight back to repeats again.
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Some interest points in the previous comments. I don't watch television, I "outsource" because it is more convenient and by doing so I am actually able to follow plot lines and see a show through to its end. Nothing p*sses me off more than investing my time in a show I quite enjoy only to have it cancelled or taken off air within a few episodes. Jericho and Traveler are prime examples of this. Australian TV networks should get their butts in gear and screen those shows in the same way that they are screened in the US. By consistently changing time slots, days and even repeating episodes in the middle of a season, viewers have no way of keeping track and no incentive to sit and wait around for the networks to figure out what they're going to do.
One final point... if people like me didn't "outsource", then we'd never have discovered such shows like Dexter and the Tudors which did screen in Australia eventually (albeit two seasons too late). I wouldn't be surprised if the networks here did the same to help them figure out what shows might be popular on Australian screens
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Like many people, I don't always have the time free to be able to sit down on the couch and watch what I want when its on. Between kids, work and life not many people do. Then there is nothing worse than re arranging your timetable to be able to to fit your favourite show in only to find that the network is either not showing it this week or it has been moved to another time slot. I remember a time when you used to be able to set your clock against the tv now its all higgledee piggultly you dont know what is when. This shows a distinct disrespect to the loyal viewer. Anyway, TV networks through their news arms are always telling their audience they need to adapt to changing times and modern technology. Well maybe the networks need to do the same! The networks need to realise that where they have failed their viewers by abusing their loyal viewing audience, we will adapt. Viewers have done this by "outsourcing" their favourite viewing and bypassing the networks all together. And even the Australian Networks that allow you to download their soapies like Home and Away or Neighbours (non of which I watch) their player is tracked and monitored and who wants that? Nup! The networks have brought this on themselves and maybe this kick in the pants through a drop in advertising revenue through a drop in viewing audience will make them realise that the viewing audience is where their focus should lie. If it wasn't for the loyal viewer the networks would fail and die. Well reap what you have sown Channels 7, 9 and 10.
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It is nearly impossible to stay loyal to local free-to-air television channels when the constantly change programming, start programs at different times to that advertised and generally show programs so far behind everyone else that it makes it very difficult to avoid spoilers when using forums or communicating with fellow fans overseas. I don't have pay-TV so if I want to stay somewhere near up to date I have to source episodes elsewhere. When they do come on local TV I still watch them, the versions I see on the net are generally of poor quality, enough to get by but that is about it. As per other coments here, the networks are doing themselves the disservice by the way they show programs, out of order and interspersed with repeats to string it out. They often use misleading advertising for upcoming episodes, suggesting that certain things are going to happen during the episode that just plain don't - they edit the clips to show one storyline to hook the viewer, something totally different happens, the viewer doesn't bother next time. 10 is particularly bad for that. The local networks also clearly have a preference for so called 'reality' programming, bombarding us with such exciting shows as 000 Heroes, Animal Rescue, Biggest Looser and Farmer Wants a Wife for examples. These shows always run overtime and that does not seem to be an issue for the networks. They choose what they show and how, it is up to them if they are losing viewers.
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Surely there must be someone from the networks who gives a damn about losing their Viewers? Like many others, I turned off TV and I personaly switched to Rental DVDs (TY Video Flicks $1 Tuseday)

For years there was no official EPG for timeshifted viewing. WTF were you trying to accomplish? People will ALWAYS choose the most convenient path. How your conternt delivery became less convenient then Video Hire or internet delivery should shame you!

Braodcast the shows when they are advertise, not 10 minutes later (so the ending is truncated)

Worry less about the "official rating period" and more about consistant and timely content delivery.

Intensionally misleading advertising that seems to promisesd new episodes, yet shows repeats. Ok, you get us to view the repeats for a few minutes, or even the whole episode (grats to your marketing department for such a great job!) and piss us off. Well, I found out that I can turn you off.

I appologize if you fixed all those problems recently, but for the last few years I have been watching all my TV via video hire, so my rant may be dated.

I doubt it though......
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The channels cannot blame this on the viewers who are "outsourcing" for their tv shows. The only reason that viewers started finding alternative means of viewing their favourite shows is because of the way that 7, 9 and 10 jerk their viewers around when it comes to any sort of consistency with screening most of the shows discussed. Bloody "encore" screenings of episodes, spacing out seasons with repeats shoved in wily-nilly between 'new' episodes, which aren't really new anymore because they'd have screened months earlier in the US.

Why would viewers keep watching the shows on the TV when they can get them from somewhere else and watch them in order and without worrying that they're going to suddenly find out that the screening time has shifted to 11:30 on a Wednesday night? I mean, look at "Lost" ... Channel 7 throws it back on with barely a peep of notice to the viewing public, and at 10:30 at night. And even then, just coz it is meant to be on, doesn't mean it screens. Plus how many episodes behind the US are we?

You want to see a channel that's recognised the fans demands? Look at the SciFi channel with its fast-tracking of "Battlestar Galactica" - within hours of the episode screening in the US it is running on SciFi. Consistently at the same time every Saturday.

I just wish people would tune out of those bloody "reality" shows as quickly... but oh, that's right... those ones get regular screening times and a bloody overkill of publicity.
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I actually watch NCIS when it screens and record Packed to The Rafters.



But it's understandable that if you've hot a top rated US show airing directly against a top-rated Australian show, ofcourse you're going to watch the Aussie version. The US eps are plentiful online and since we're behind, it sitting there able to be downloaded and watched immediately (or heck prior to it's screening) whilst the Aust shows are harder to come by and would require a period of waiting for it to be uploaded.



And perhaps most of us have outsourced our television in the first place because of the way the programmers treated us fans in the beginning. They've been giving the fans the shaft well before the fans rebelled and ratings dropped. They've treated Lost, Prison Break, Scrubs, 30 Rock, Veronica Mars and 24 (the list goes on) abysmally the past few years with their shuffling and dead end timeslots. They don't seem to get that they're pushing viewers even further way. The ratings wouldn't have dropped so severely if they had given them a decent chance in the first place.



And I'm glad the NCIS & House figures have dropped. The show gained popularity and ratings and what did Channel 10 do? Stopped the new episodes and screened repeats, as they knew they'd still get the viewers especially with all the newbies and thus stringing the season (and ratings) out for even longer. Too bad about all the faithful fans watching from the pilot. What a reward.



Still these shows are rating over 1 million. I wouldn't say that's 'poor'. Poor compared to Underbelly perhaps, but definitely not poor.



What's poor is that now we have to put up with these tired 'reality' shows taking up the screen. 000 Heroes, Border Security and it's channel 9 rip-off, Who Wants to be a Farmer's Wife, RSPCA and all the other animal programs, Meet My Whatevers, the multiple garden shows... Oh well at least it gives me a break from the TV.
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Some good points there jbeauchamp. I pretty much agree word for word. That said the repeat issue would be preferable to the current contempt Free to Air shows its viewers.
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It is not as easy as you make it out to be to screen the show at the exact time/same day/next day to the US. While in theory it sounds wonderful, it is a much more difficult and expensive practice to have all of the episodes shipped and ready to screen here at the appropriate time. Also, Australia was a completely different set-up to the US when it comes to the airing of our TV shows and our ratings season. We really are lucky here with our scheduling - and I know most of you are scoffing when you read this, but it is true. In Australia our ratings season begins in the first week of February, and carries through until early December, which allows us, in terms of US shows, to screen two separate series in the same timeslot and day over the course of the year. Eg. We screen show 1 at 8.30 on Monday for 22-24 consecutive weeks, then show 2 at 8.30 on Monday for 22-24 consecutive weeks after the previous series has finished airing. For the most part, shows in the US follow a similar structure (ratings season beginning September, ending May) but only show the one series in the same timeslot. Following this structure, the US is constantly bombarded with re-runs and replacements, and often viewers don't know if the episode screening that night is a repeat or a premiere airing. They have what is known as sweeps weeks (not really sure what it means or what it is about) but from what I know it occurs a few times a year, whereby the networks put new episodes of their top-rating shows on for four or so consecutive weeks. If Australia were to copy this format, and thus show episodes as soon as they screened in the US, the viewers will get angry and lash out at our networks for taking their show off every few weeks for repeats or some other show as they don't screen for 22 consecutive weeks in the US, like they do here (there are a couple of exceptions such as Lost and 24). But back to the major issue, our networks are disgraceful. It takes more than two or three weeks to develop a proper fan base for a television show - not many are overnight successes. If a show stays on the same day and time, it will find its audience and more people will come to it. The best recent example of that is Two And A Half Men on Channel 9. It always struggled to find ratings here in Aus, and was moved to a different day and timeslot every couple of weeks, then 9 cancelled Temptation at 7.00 every weeknight, and threw Two And A Half Men in that timeslot until they could find a proper replacement. 9, doing its usual trick of not finding a replacement, and umming and erring over what they should put there, were to make a stunning discovery. As time passed and the show remained in the same spot its audience began to grow, and suddenly, 9 were met with a success. Why did Two And A Half Men become popular in Aus after it had done so poorly? Did our attitudes change due to struggling economic times and we deeply desire a good laugh? Has there been a shift to sitcoms in the last couple of years? No. The answer is simple. It was left alone. 9 didn't touch it and people began to start watching it, and when it still didn't move, they continued to watch it and as it still stayed more people began to tune in having heard from those who watch it how good it is. Pushing 24 to 11 at night? Who the hell is going to be watching that? Only a diehard fan - which I am, but I am going to start looking elsewhere to get it if 7 can't treat me with some respect - same goes for what they have done with Lost. I have never downloaded a television show that has screened here in Aus. I have only ever downloaded a show when the network messes around with the show by putting it on different nights and/or changing its timeslot, or even worse, completely removing it from my screen. I don't consider there to be anything wrong with downloading television shows if the local network screening it chooses not to show any more of it. Why should I miss out on it if a few executives see this timeslot is receiving a 5% less viewership than last year, therefore the show must go. We will treat the networks with respect if they treat us with some respect. If you keep the show screening in the same slot week in week out, we will watch it.
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Here's a thought... screen the US tv shows at the same bloody time in Australia as they are screened in the US. But longer term I think traditional free to air TV is dead! With more people getting fast connections to the internet I think TV should simply make the global switch to internet delivery in this way people around the world could watch any show they want any time they want... if you still want to fund this by advertising all you have to do is insert localised adverts into the content... too easy - so wake up and smell the coffee networks, the future is now and your living in the past!
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I don't download shows unless I have to and I prefer to watch them on television but it's no wonder other viewers are downloading. Shows such as Chuck are in their second season in America while here it hasn't even aired. I think if we were only one or two weeks behind the states people would stop downloading.
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Well maybe if they showed the show episodes within 24hrs of them being shown in the USA we might not source the episode else where ie BT.

Some shows are months behind even full seasons behind what is released in the USA. Why should we have to wait so long.

The other thing people need to remember is when you download these episodes you can then watch them WHEN it suits you...ie when your finished work for the day or when you and your misses are both ready to relax and spend some time watching a show together....convenience is a big part of it IMO
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Technology is killing the networks. Let's face it any show from the states can be downloaded off the net in the blink of an eye. But I say that the networks have no one to blame but themselves as quality overseas show takes weeks or even months to arrive on Aussie shores. Sci-Fi channel now shows Battlestar only 6 hours after the states and you know what? I don't download it. The networks should take a leaf out of Sci-Fi's book
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I feel that the networks really do suck when it comes to promoting some shows take 9 wioth flashpoint they aired these preview eps that were eps from diffrent spots in the first season then when they do start airing it they don't show the first ep ?? wtf's up with that is it any wonder that fans of tv shows go with the "other means" road
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if the majority of our shows come from the US, our networks shouldnt be trying to beat each other they should be tryin to match or beat the american networks. and that means airing shows when they air in the US and our ratings season begins when theres does.
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Agree with all the others. Difficult to show loyalty to the networks when they can't be bothered to show the remotest bit of loyalty to viewers.
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Agree with ossie, only watch sport and news now, otherwise DVD is much better for a good series marathon
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It isn't only dramas. The Simpsons repeats are being shown again in their slot. Pay TV does not care about ratings so the better shows get better air time like Gossip Girl, Terminator and Scrubs.
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7, 9 and 10 have treated my favourite shows TERRIBLY in the past. Buffy/Angel on all hours, Scrubs in a million different time zones, The West Wing disappearing for years. What, they expect loyalty? Only watch for News and Sport.
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Its about time Australian shows have got good writers and top talent and in return a lot more people are watching thus having dollars in the country. As many other people have said, if they didn't move shows to outrageous time slows or get rid of them completely, then people will look to different means of watching the shows. Tv stations need to move with technology and unless they fix it then people will keep going to the net to get shows or move to pay tv.
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we need to have shows shown here the same day they air in the US. Just like what 10 was doing with House and 7 was doing with Bionic Woman (even though that bit the dust). If the networks are wondering just why people aren't tuning in its because they keep shifting and pulling their shows. Not giving the shows a chance to find an audience. Consistancy is key.
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Australian TV deserves this. Maybe this will cause them to improve their act. All the highest rating shows in other countries have been shoved in rediculous late night timeslots on Australian TV. Prime examples as of right now are Lost and 24. It's only gonna get worse unless they start airing new episodes EXACTLY when America airs them, AND puts them on in most reasonable hours. If they don't do that, they're royally screwed and the problem is only going to get worse.
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TV stations in Oz r a pian in the bum, coz der 4eva taking shows off of TV, coz they dont get high enough ratings. They took 90210 off after 3 Episodes coz not enough people watched it, when i know that stacks of people did. TV stations r annoying!!!!!!
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