Torchwood: Miracle Day and why it’s running behind US transmission

The near-week delay between the US and UK premieres of Torchwood: Miracle Day has been causing some consternation. We consider the key reasons and questions…

Our Twitter feed has not been short of comments over the past week from people who aren’t happy, or fail to see the logic of, the BBC’s decision to transmit Torchwood: Miracle Day in the UK after it’s screened in the US. The delay isn’t massive. There’s six days in it, with Miracle Day going out in the UK on the 14th July, as opposed to the 8th of July in America. But it’s enough to get people angry.

I’m not trying to dissuade people from that. I just figured that it might be worth laying out the reasons why this is happening, for you to argue with or otherwise.

Why is the Starz network in the US getting the show first?

Because the Starz network is paying the bulk of the bill for it. And because, without the Starz network, the likelihood is that Miracle Day wouldn’t be happening at all.

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Lest we forget, the BBC and Fox both had the chance to make the show, but both, for differing reasons, didn’t. In stepped Starz and put up what’s reported as twice the budget that the BBC gave the show. Hence, Miracle Day is happening.

Also, Starz is a subscription network in the States. It relies on people paying to access its content. As such, it needs to get as many viewers to justify its expenditure, and if people could have caught one of its shows elsewhere without having to cough up, then the model simply wouldn’t work.

Why is it being screened in Canada before the UK?

Couldn’t tell you. That one is a bit odd. Torchwood: Miracle Day is a UK/US co-production, and it’s disappointing that a nation not involved in the financing of it (from what I can tell) can get its hands on the show before one that does.

Why do we have to wait six days? Why can’t Miracle Day be screened sooner in the UK?

Assuming that Starz insisted on first transmission of Miracle Day, that knocks Friday night out as an option for the BBC.

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Saturdays, then? Well, how many hard sci-fi shows go out on a Saturday night? None. There’s a reason for that, too. Plus, don’t forget that John Barrowman will, by the end of Torchwood‘s run, have another show going out on Saturday nights, Tonight’s The Night. Two shows with the same person in prime time on one night? It’s not going to happen.

Sundays? Again, it’s a not a traditional sci-fi slot. This is, remember, where the BBC (wrongly) shunted Outcasts earlier in the year, knowing the audience wouldn’t be as strong.

As for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday? Well, that’s harder to answer. Existing runs account for some schedule blockage, but one of these three days would, clearly, have been preferable for the impatient amongst us.

Thursday at 9pm isn’t a bad slot, mind. It’s just the waiting and the delay that’s annoying. It seems to me that half of the delay is easily explained, the other half less so.

Does all this matter?

Ready for the blunt answer? No, not really.

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It matters to you and me, perhaps, who just want to see a show early. But we’re not the mass market audience that the BBC is looking for. We’re a small proportion of the audience, albeit the loudest subset of it. We’re the ones who tell everyone else to go and watch it.

But, the long and short of it is that Torchwood: Miracle Day‘s ratings won’t be massively hurt by the delay.

But they’ll still be hurt a bit?

Yes, probably. But, then, here’s the conundrum. I’m not daft. I know we live in a world where people can get hold of programmes from the other side of the channel quite easily. But if people in the UK choose to acquire Miracle Day, and don’t watch it on the telly, then it hardly helps the long term future of the show.

The BBC’s money is still important to Torchwood, and the blunt truth is that the best way to support the programme is to watch it legally via one of the platforms the BBC offers. It might be that every 100,000 viewers counts when it comes to another series.

Won’t the US and UK versions be different anyway?

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Yes, apparently so. It’s not like Britain will get a different ending, though, but there are reports that the BBC version will be slightly longer. That also takes into accounts any cuts made for swearing and sex, which the BBC is likely to require.

So, what should I do?

Honestly? Support the BBC transmission. It may feel like Britain is getting a bit shafted here, but there’s more to it than any kind of mission to annoy the residents of the UK. This is the way of the modern day television world, and this is how big shows like Torchwood can still get made.

Personally, I’d far rather have Torchwood: Miracle Day on a Thursday night than not at all, and I hope the show gets the support it needs and deserves.

What’s the official BBC line?

“BBC One is likely to TX within days of the America TX. UK schedules are very different to those in the America who can confirm months in advance. BBC One wants to give it the best slot possible for viewers and fans and this is what is most important to the scheduling of Torchwood“.

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