True Blood Fans to See Red Over SoHo No-show
“Waiting sucks” was the promotional line Prime TV used with the media to tease the return of True Blood.
And while it can now be revealed that season five will premiere here on June 21, just 11 days after its US launch, don’t expect to see the vampire hit in HD until closer to Halloween.
But its director of entertainment programming, Travis Dunbar, says it won’t be until after its SD run on Prime, “somewhere around the latter part of 2012”.
It seems more bizarre than the freaky folks of Bon Temps that a signature HBO show like True Blood would languish in shabby SD when it should have gone direct to SoHo for a shiny HD presentation – as happened with other SoHo series that originally aired on Prime, like Mad Men and Weeds.
But True Blood has been as synonymous with Prime’s branding as Doctor Who and Top Gear, and clearly wasn’t a scheduling linchpin Prime programmers were willing to relinquish.
Even so, it’s galling for SoHo subscribers who pay $10 a month to receive the premium channel to be told they can’t see True Blood legally in HD until after it’s completed its run on another Sky channel that the pay-TV operator won’t convert to HD.
Dunbar appreciates the decision will make many True Blood fans see red but says it would be “unfair” to Prime viewers if SoHo screened the series first after four seasons of it being a free-to-air mainstay (even though contemporaries like Mad Men and Weeds are now exclusive to SoHo).
“When we first planned the launch of SoHo, we were always cognisant of the myriad of rights issues that would confront us in setting up the service.
“Were True Blood: Season One premiering for the first time next week, it would undoubtedly appear on SoHo first as a premiere, then on a commercial network like Prime thereafter.
“Shows like Hung or Rescue Me, which were effectively abandoned by their encumbent free-to-air broadcaster as a prime-time proposition or even a series commitment, would again premiere uncut and uninterrupted in peak on SoHo until the shows ran their course.
“But obviously, it was never that easy. These shows will eventually play on SoHo, in HD, uncut and uninterrupted.
“In the case of True Blood, after four seasons premiering on Prime before SoHo even began, it would be unfair to summarily remove the show from Prime viewers, and Prime has always been timely in the broadcast of True Blood.
“The same principle would probably apply to [The Box’s] Spartacus were it premiering next week, too. However, it would still be a line call as to whether it met the criteria for SoHo drama.
“Before you raise the issue of the same applying to Mad Men, the distributor could only offer one set of rights — not both free and pay — so the tough decision was made to move Mad Men to SoHo.
“We appreciate this may perturb some Prime viewers, but as Mad Men was never a staple of the Prime peak or primetime schedule, and played off-peak, we felt it was best served on SoHo: within a week or two of US transmission — as opposed to the six months or so it took to get to Prime — and in an environment where it would shine in HD.
“The same distributor also has the rights to Weeds and as both shows were up for renewal, we could only secure pay rights, and that was at the distributor’s discretion.”