Prime-time TV at 3 a.m.

What if your prime-time TV shows were only offered at say, 3 a.m.? Would you stay up all night just to watch "Boston Legal" or "CSI:NY"? Instead, what if most of the television available during your evening prime time were infomercials? Most viewers certainly wouldn’t hurry home from work to watch TV.

Ask yourself why any broadcaster would air the best TV shows during the overnight and schedule infomercials and junk TV during the day and in evening prime time? Add nine hours to your local time and you’ll begin to discover the problem.

It turns out that our armed forces in Japan receive their U.S. broadcast feeds via fiber from San Francisco. While the quality is good, the timing is bad. If it’s 7 p.m. in San Francisco, it’s 2 a.m. in Japan. The major networks’ programs were being transported from the U.S. to Japan in real time, meaning that if "CSI" aired at 7 p.m. San Francisco time, it was airing at 2 a.m. in the morning in Japan. Unless you worked a second shift, say 4 p.m. to midnight, a 2 a.m. broadcast of your favorite American TV program wouldn’t be very convenient.

For us broadcast types, the answer to this problem seems quite apparent: delay. Why not just delay the feed going to Japan (or anywhere else for that matter) by the appropriate number of hours so major TV programs air in their intended time slots? Isn’t that what the networks do now? The whole United States doesn’t operate on East Coast time.

Unfortunately, the all-knowing-all-intelligent military minds couldn’t figure out how (or didn’t care) to solve this problem properly.

In addition, either our industry’s products aren’t inexpensive enough (or maybe not expensive enough) or they don’t sell to the military, so the unfamiliar (to our readers) company Allied Telesis received the bid to build the equivalent of a nine-hour TiVo. And if that’s not strange enough, the recording takes place in Japan, not the U.S. where maintenance and service would be much easier. The system delays 33 channels of programming by nine hours, shifting content back to prime time. (A Stars & Stripes article details the process.)

For a broadcast vendor, building a 33-channel, nine-hour video server would be a piece of cake. And, it’s not an expensive solution either. Most Broadcast Engineering readers could probably block diagram such a system in five minutes on one piece of paper.

I’ve never worked in the military space, so I’m not throwing stones. However, it’s disappointing to see such a simple broadcast application not being served by broadcast vendors.

Anyone care to comment on why traditional broadcast suppliers weren’t involved in providing this solution to our military?