January 16, 2011

FX HD - the best US imports around?

With all the noise about the launch of Sky Atlantic HD in February it may be that one of the best importers of US programmes is overlooked: FX HD. Currently debuting the third season of True Blood the channel is also currently reshowing the first series of the excellent Breaking Bad and zombie thriller Walking Dead, and on February 6th FX is showing the wonderful Arrested Development from the beginning. NCIS, Better Off Ted, American Dad, Sons of Anarchy, Nip Tuck, Burn Notice, Family Guy...and don't forget this is the channel that first brought us Generation Kill and something called The Wire. Pretty impressive stuff, I think you'll agree.
Unfortunately under the lid FX is another News Corps company, so who knows if it will enjoys such luxuries in the future. Chances are that it will be left slim pickings after Sky Atlantic  has been fed all the best US cable shows, so enjoy it while it lasts.
Hopefully, Five USA will continue to grab the odd gem, although there are rumours that new owner Richard Desmond has that under review.
The future is looking somewhat murky if you appreciate the finer TV dramas and comedies and have Virgin Media, Freeview or Freesat services. Let's hope that Sky doesn't buy every single quality US import and make them exclusive to their platform, otherwise they'll make pirates of us all...


Ricky said...

This is an interesting issue for Virgin Media. Without decent content Sky will have the upper hand, even if the Virgin TiVo service is technically better ie slicker interface, better at finding video content and has the fibre broadband connection.

Do you feel there is a way for VM to compete on a Content level with Sky? Or are the current VM Content offerings really that poor in comparision to Sky? Thanks, Ricky.

irishguymcr said...

I have been wondering what is going to happen with Living when Sky rebrand it as Sky Living, will virginmedia lose the HD version of it?

Nialli said...

@ Ricky: there's no way VM can compete with Sky on content. There's no way ANYONE can compete with Sky on content - Sky has the deepest pockets and money talks. Virgin's best hope is to carry Sky's channels. Berkett has said as much over the last few years, and we've been well served in getting Sky HD channels. It's in both sides interest to get the biggest possible audience for Pay TV channels - the enemy these days is Freeview/Freesat.
@irishguymcr: Sky Living HD won't be disappearing from our lineup from what I understand

Ricky said...

Nailli: Yes, for the moment Sky will be more than happy to get as many eyeballs watching their channels whether it's via Sky or VM. But I suspect that over time the eyeballs will move over to become Sky subscribers....slowing draining VM of it's customer base.

I suppose there is always Ofcom and the Competition Commission there to help stop monopolies forming, but News Corp is adept at handing such hurdles.

I'm not saying VM will wither away...afterall, they have the fibre connection, Cisco TiVo, great PR etc ... but I do wonder how they plan to counter the Content issue over the longer term.


Erich said...

Alright, deep breaths, people. :)

It's not exactly like Sky Atlantic is some kind of huge game changer in the Sky vs VM "war". The likes of Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire have a certain degree of prestige attached to them, but in terms of viewership, they're never going to be as popular as the sports and movies from Sky that VM already have access to.

Sky One may look a little depleted at the moment, but that has more to do with the fact that a couple of the big American shows like 24 and Lost have ended, and I doubt Mad Men or Boardwalk would have aired on Sky One anyway, even if Sky Atlantic hadn't been created.

If VM can market Tivo correctly, that's going to be far more attractive to a lot more people than Sky Atlantic will be. And it may still make it to VM eventually.

As for FX, it does have quite an impressive line-up of imports, but is held back by how long it takes for them to get the shows on air.

Anonymous said...

I'd also factor in the fact that TV boxsets on DVD are cheap as chips these days. Monthly sky subscription or a few quid in the next HMV sale?? Okay, you'll have to wait awhile, but it's a no-brainer for me.

Nialli said...

@Chris: depends on how long you're prepared to wait though. HBO series can take forever to get a disc release - there's no official release date for Boardwalk Empire on DVD or Blu Ray in the US. Mad Men takes around six months to appear.
@Erich: I agree that Sky Atlantic itself isn't a game changer necessarily, but I think News Corp owning Sky 100% will be. We've seen in the US recently carriage withdrawn as News Corp named its price for the Fox channels and the cable companies choked on their corn flakes, and I would not be in the least surprised if that tactic was repeated here.
Longer term though, will better IP TV solutions replace platforms completely?

kevin said...

I'm with Chris - got app 1000 movies I've recorded off TV + many many box sets + bought stuff + some (not much) back of truck stuff. I can get the first 3 series of Mad men from the local public library for a £1 each + mountains more. Will be switching from VIP to M and investing the difference.

Incidentally, only got VIP so I could have a second box for Mum (90 yo) so she could watch movies. Unfortunately, due to Ofcoms stupid rules she needs a pin number to watch just about everything [too confusing for her] & she's in bed at 10pm.. Go to Ofcoms web site and there are any number of ways to complain about everybody and everything except ...... you guessed it - Ofcom. Rant over.

Moroboshi said...

The way I see it, exclusive content is a last gasp effort to save old content delivery platforms. The future is clearly IPTV and in the US people are already able to completely ditch their cable TV subscriptions and live on Netflix and Hulu Plus through a PS3, Xbox 360, Apple TV, Roku, or Boxee Box, not to mention a rapidly growing range of IPTV equipped HDTVs.

Remember almost all of the big US import shows here are not from Fox/News Corp/Murdoch/Satan, so HBO, ABC, AMC and the rest will deal directly with IPTV platform holders soon, just as they already do in the US. That will mean no more Sky exclusives.

The writing's on the wall and it's only a matter of time. 5 years at most I'd say.