When the talent show “Rising Star” debuted this month, those wondering how they were going to let people vote live in each time zone brought assumptions they’d do two shows, one for the east coast and one for the west. After all, when you’re touting the innovative process of letting the public vote live on a talent show for the first time, you want everyone to have the feeling that the voting process is truly live. It turns out that “Rising Star” wasn’t live for the west coast and just another tape delay from the east coast broadcast. The only thing live for the west coast was that voting percentage line (resembling a thermometer) that was superimposed on the screen for the west coast feed.
To some, that might feel like the west coast has been cheated again on seeing something truly live and making a difference in the initial singing performance. Now the west coast will only be able to save the performers that didn’t have a wall go up on “Rising Star” by essentially voting after the fact.
Seeing this disappointment rather than “Rising Star” doing another show for the west coast is one reason why the west coast has always been a problem for truly going live. It’s an issue that’s been stuck in a rut for decades in the realm of TV, even if the earliest days of media entertainment (particularly radio) actually did do two live shows in order to give the west coast a truly live experience. If you’ve ever read about the history of early radio, most shows would do an east coast show, and then turn around and do the same show again live for the west coast.
The above is a format that probably can’t be done now due to prohibitive costs from networks. Any time you see such a thing today is on network news if a breaking news story happens in the west. As far as award shows, we all know the history of the tape delay that’s still an annoyance from the few award shows still refusing to go live. So far, the Oscars, the Golden Globes, and the SAG Awards have been willing to air live, meaning networks and cable airing them at 5 p.m., Pacific Time. The lone holdouts are now the Grammy Awards and the Tonys, both of which had major spoilers on social media once again this year after exciting years in music and Broadway.
How will any of this be solved so the west coast doesn’t have to be an afterthought after the rest of the country has already seen something? Any solution has to come in being more freeform with broadcast schedules and not adhering to everything worthwhile being on in primetime.
Returning to More Open TV Schedules
In the very early days of TV, most shows were live due to being a decade before satellite technology could create tape delays. For some shows in the late 1940s through the 1950s, it meant filming a show and then rushing the film by plane to the west coast studios within a few hours. Those were the earliest examples of wanting to place a show on in the primetime hours in order to satisfy sponsors. However, that type of scheduling is one that might be outdated today when media is available at all times. For many, the late afternoon may be the best time to capture people on the west coast who may turn to Netflix or other media options in the primetime hours.
The networks should realize that every award show would be better off airing at once for the entire country, including 5 p.m. for the west. It’s been proven to work well for the Oscars, despite some slight concerns when going past midnight for the east coast and viewers going to bed. That’s all the more reason to find ways to shorten up every award show and make sure they get done within three hours.
No doubt the Grammys and the Tonys will go with the “live for everyone” feel eventually, albeit with satellite delays to bleep out anything unexpected. As far as live talent shows are concerned, “Rising Star” should have negotiated with ABC to air live at 6 p.m. on the west coast while airing live at 9 p.m. in the east. It would have been a perfect synch since even a bigger audience would have tuned in at that earlier hour. Airing at 6 p.m. also isn’t all that far away from primetime where sponsors want to be. Plus, because “Rising Star” had some competition on other networks, it would have been a perfect lead-in to other ABC programming directly in primetime.
If shows like “Rising Star” want to be truly innovative, that’s the only way to help accommodate the west coast who may feel as if they’re a second-class audience now. Perhaps they’ll air live for all time zones for at least the finale so we can finally say that something other than the occasional award show or major sports event was truly watched in unison across the nation.