It's the question on everyone's lips: Why can't Americans watch the BBC's Gardener's World show? Okay, so maybe not. But that particularly personal problem does highlight a wider question that I've been wondering about: Why don't international broadcasters use the internet to their advantage more?
My wife, you see, is a keen gardener. Moreso, she's a keen reader of gardening blogs, magazines and watcher of what few gardening shows there are on television that aren't terrible. Here's the thing, though; thanks to stays in the U.K. and the wonder of YouTube, she knows that she loves the BBC's Gardener's World show, and would happily spend 30 minutes each week tuning in to get the hints, tips and sneak peaks into other people's greenery that the show provides… Except, of course, that she can't do so because the show isn't available in the U.S.
And on the one hand, I understand why: American television audiences aren't exactly likely to go gaga over such a restrained show based around British gardening, weather and the like (Seriously, the difference between American and British DIY shows is oddly instructive for those looking to learn about the national cultures), and of the channels likely to buy the show for American broadcast, they're either not interested or can't make the math work out for everyone's benefit (Undoubtedly, the lack of advertisers come into play here). But, on the other hand… why isn't this show available online for those who do want to see it?
Here's where I always get confused about the way that broadcasters use the internet: Right now, Gardener's World is literally worthless in the U.S.. No network has bought the rights to broadcast it, no-one seems to be looking for a way to make that happen, and yet, the BBC seems to be perfectly okay with that remaining the case. What, aside from bandwidth, is to lose from making the show available online to American audiences? The success of Top Gear - Not only the U.K. show itself, but that success leading to the format being sold to the History Channel to be remade for American audiences - would suggest that British special interest shows can have appeal for American audiences, if only they had a chance to view them, so… why not put Gardener's World on iTunes and see what the uptake is? Doesn't that monetize content that already exists, has already been paid for, so that every single sale is profit…?
It's not just Gardener's World where this could be possible, of course; there are literally whole networks of content that never makes it outside of its home country that could be made available for the curious or hardcore fan base online, legally, in order to build enough of an audience base so that it could potentially grow into something that could make it onto broadcast television. And yet… so much content never gets an official release, and money is left on the metaphorical table. For all the times that the internet can feel like content singularity, there are times like this, when it feels like potential left unfulfilled, and for reasons I can't understand.
I'm curious, now; what international content would you want to see legally released online in the U.S. - or, for readers abroad, what shows from the U.S. are you waiting for to make their digital appearance?