One month ago KBDI underwent some enormous scheduling changes. Many of you were quick to embrace these changes enthusiastically. Other viewers, however, were not pleased at all. One of the most contentious shifts involved EastEnders. Before we get to the new time slot, allow me to provide you with the backstory.
EastEnders started in 1985 on the BBC. It soon crossed the Atlantic airing at one time or another on BBC America, Dish Network pay-per-view, and several PBS stations nationwide.
KBDI records two episodes per week, 104 per year, from the satellite feed. This week we will air episode 2020 and record episode 2281. Just to point out the obvious: that makes us 260 episodes behind. That’s years of birthdays and weddings in the characters’ lives, just waiting to make it out. Aren’t you curious? I thought so.
We didn’t intend to fall to so far behind in the first place, but with Pledge Drives, Election Coverage, etc… pre-emption came along, two more went into the icebox, without any being taken out to defrost.
Wait a minute! Why should we care? You are probably wondering. The series is already years off whatever may have transpired on the British airwaves. Why bother? Right?
Wrong. Unfortunately, television programming has more in common with a tub of yogurt than with your DVD library at home. The fact is that each show has a “use by date.” When we purchase a show, we are actually buying legal rights window in which we are allowed to broadcast that show.
For that EastEnders show #2020 we discussed earlier its expiration date is June 1st, 2008. No need to toss this one in the trash bin just yet. But our usage period started in June of 2004. So you can see that unless we increased our frequency up from a measly 2 per week, we would have eventually arrived at a place that we wouldn’t have been able to air the episode before it expired.
In the case of your vanilla yogurt, you’d get surprised by that odd ecosystem that grew since the last time you poured out bowl of granola. In our case, though, we’d probably get a phone call from a group of dignified British lawyers in the Department of Contracts at the BBC. In either case, you’re off to a rough morning.
The other concern is simultaneously technical and simple. Saving shows takes up space. On a server, space is memory. On tape, space is shelving and storage. Really, both are money and time. Every media organization struggles to keep up with the demands and PBS stations rarely have the luxury to not be stingy, given our particularly limited resources.
So, for those of you with the “not broken, why fix it?” line of questioning. I hope you now comprehend, that in spite of appearances, EastEnders was very broken indeed.
Okay – so now you can see why we want five weekly episodes, but where can all of that EastEnders go? It never pulled in ratings. It never pulled in pledge dollars. No press, little prestige. Not educational exactly, other than some pretty snarly pub barstool one-liners and slice of life drama.
For our second-most expensive individual show, you could start making a strong case for dropping it altogether. Something that it looks like BBC America, Dish Network, and other PBS stations may have already done.
Between 5:30pm and 11:00pm there is very little room for movement. Our signature shows, BBC News at 6:30, Studio 12, Colorado Inside Out, our other public affairs shows and PBS highlights like NOVA, Austin City Limits aren’t going anywhere.
In speaking with countless viewers over the last six months, many of you had already been firing up your DVR’s or VHS recorders to watch EastEnders. Many of you stressed that the important factor was to continue showing it, no matter the hour. Many of you called prior to taking your vacations, to request a list of airings just for the purpose of making sure that you wouldn’t miss your EastEnders family, while you were busy having to visit the ones you can’t ignore.
So before 5:30 or after 11:00pm? Our late night news block from BBC World News and DW-Journal has a following of newsjunkies and a 3 hour shelf life starting at 9:00pm, given the time sensitive nature of news. These could go earlier, but no later.
We are always open to suggestions, but I think you will find that if we wish to carry EastEnders 5 times a week, our options are limited.
One final comment pertains to the pre-emptions during our pledge programming. I know that Pledge pre-emptions are almost unbearable. I am working closely with our Membership department to see what can be done to avoid EastEnders interruptions in the future. But don’t look for changes to this practice too soon, the earliest that any would change would be for next Spring. October pledge weekend was scheduled weeks ago.
To conclude, while we continue to look for other options, I offer my only suggestion for now: put some water on and have “a cuppa” or a pour yourself a pint and tuck into getting the scoop from Walford, Albert Square, E20.