There are hundreds of free-to-air satellite channels that can be received in Australia and New Zealand. The vast majority of the channels are presented in their "packaged", ready for the viewer to watch format. Often dish owners overlook "feeds", the frequent transmission of unedited news and sports video. As well as raw video broadcasts there is another type of feed to be discovered, often referred to as "Wildfeeds". The term "Wildfeeds" is often used by American dish owners to describe what could be called more accurately "Recurring Feeds".
Each day television stations across the Asia-Pacific region present a wide variety of programing that was originally produced for an American domestic audience. The majority of these programs are not particularly time sensitive and have a long "shelf-live" or "use by date". Would the average Australian viewer really notice that a popular USA sitcom is 12 months old, probably not. However if the re-broadcast of an American Network News program was 12 months old it would certainly stand out as being particularly useless! Highly perishable programing such as news and even late night talk shows are fed to the Asia-Pacific on a daily basis. "Recurring Feeds" can be seen on the same satellite day in day out, year after year.
Some of the most popular recurring feeds to our region originate at the CBS Television Centre in New York. The nightly feeds of the 6:30 PM (New York Time) CBS Evening News and later in the evening The Late Show with David Letterman are transported across the continental United States before being up-linked by the Panamsat Napa Valley Teleport in California to Panamsat 2.
The CBS Evening News is the flagship current affairs and news broadcast for the American CBS Network. Each night since the early 1960's, Americans have tuned in at 6:30 PM (USA Eastern time) as the New York newsroom has gone to air with the national news program. Unlike news broadcasts in Australia, commercial television in the USA presents a "national news bulletin" rather than a series of individual state based bulletins. Each CBS local station usually presents their "local city news" bulletin in the time slot that precedes the 6:30 PM national news.
Walter Cronkite, the American news icon, gained the CBS News anchor chair in 1962 and on September 2, 1963, CBS Evening News became network television's first half-hour weeknight news broadcast when the bulletin was lengthened from 15 to 30 minutes. During the 1970's, the CBS Evening News began a period of domination in terms of viewership unmatched in American television.
Dan Rather replaced Cronkite in 1981 and the decades since then have seen CBS News in a ratings decline. There are a number of theories concerning the loss of viewers from the CBS Evening News, however in general all the USA free-to-air networks are suffering decreasing viewer interest in evening news programs with the emergence of alternative media such as cable television news, talk radio, and the Internet. Dan Rather retired in 2005, exactly 24 years after succeeding Cronkite. Rather left the anchor's chair sooner than he wished after an internal investigation at CBS found that he violated journalistic rules in a report regarding George W Bush's National Guard record in the midst of the 2004 Presidential Election.
The CBS Evening News can be found daily on Panamsat 2 at 6:30 PM New York Time. Daylight savings time zone adjustments take place in both the USA and Australia at various times of the year and this feed time can vary between 8:30 AM and 10:30 AM Sydney time. The feed includes the American commercials and network promos.
As the American evening progresses we are again treated to a slice of American media on the same recurring feed channel of Panamsat 2. The Late Show with David Letterman feed also includes American commercials and usually commences around 11:30 PM New York Time.
The Late Show competes in the same time slot as NBC's Jay Leno's Tonight Show (available in Australia on The Comedy Channel on Optus C1). Letterman has achieved both critical and industry praise; his show has received 67 Emmy Award nominations, winning twelve times in his first twenty years in late night television. These days Leno consistently beats Letterman in the ratings, a lead that's grown over the years to two million viewers (5.8 vs. 3.8 million) as of 2003. Yet Letterman has consistently ranked higher than Leno in the annual Harris Poll of Nation's Favorite TV Personality; as of 2003 Letterman ranked third in that poll, behind Oprah Winfrey and Ray Romano, while Leno ranked ninth.
Tuning & Resources
One of the most entertaining aspects of watching the feeds of the CBS Evening News is having a look at what products are promoted in the commercial breaks. Pharmaceutical product commercials dominate. Drugs are promoted to treat every conceivable infliction along with a large range of laxative and anti-intestinal gas remedies.
The products promoted in these commercials are very different to what you would expect to find being presented in an Australian or New Zealand nightly newscast. Why?
Cable and direct-to-home satellite TV reception has a far deeper penetration in the USA to what is presently experienced in our region. The average young or middle aged American turns to a 24-hour cable news network to be informed rather than waiting for the 6:30 PM evening newscast.
In 2004 the median age of the Americian network television viewer was 60 years. The numbers reflect another phenomenon as well. As older people, who make up the most loyal part of the network audience and who are at home when the newscasts come on, live longer, the average age moves further upward.
USA pharmaceutical companies have realised they have a captive audience in the nightly news time-slot. The target audience is aging, requiring more drugs, eating rich American style food and suffering heartburn.