56 Up, the latest installment in the extraordinary “Up Series” of documentaries, which has followed the lives of the same 14 Britons for close to 50 years, premieres tonight in England. Starting with 1964’s Seven Up, when the subjects were seven years old, the series has revisited these same 14 people (with the exception of one or two who have refused to participate at various intervals ) every seven years. This makes the series one of the most important and unique longitudinal sociological studies ever undertaken. It also makes for a riveting viewing experience. Each installment ends by default with a natural cliff-hanger. But, alas, unlike scripted television, we must wait for another seven years of real-time life to pass before we can find out what happens next. And so, like millions of other viewers from around the world, I have anxiously been anticipating 56 Up, knowing that it was due in 2012. And yet, to my surprise and dismay, 56 Up—insanely, anachronistically—is being aired exclusively in the UK this week. And that’s it. People in the US and elsewhere are unable to watch it on TV, DVD, or the web now and for the unknown near-future.
Why, in a global marketplace that has the technological capability for content to be available simultaneously around the world, aren’t people, regardless of where they live, able to enjoy content—be it 56 Up or a host of other films and shows—as soon as it’s released? Is it due to corporate contractual obligations? Is it part of global sales strategies? Or maybe just inertia of doing things the old way? The answer, I discovered, is a little bit of all three. This is bad news not only for viewers who are unable to view new content, but is often likely an economic mistake for producers as well.
Read more. [Image: The Up Series]