Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Free Babylon 5

When was the last time you visited a station called Babylon 5? Unless you own the DVDs or have a friend or family member who does, all you have are clips on YouTube to help reminisce about one of the best sci-fi shows on television. Every other show that has made any kind of impression has found its way into syndication or on Netflix. But why not B5?

The first most obvious hurdle is the ongoing licensing issue between Warner Brothers (who owns B5) and Netflix. Babylon 5 was not the only WB owned property to disappear from Netflix streaming service when the original licensing agreement expired. The next issue is weather or not the WB or any potential streaming service wants to broadcast a product with low resolution. See, even on the DVD release, Warner Brothers apparently converted the episodes from PAL (a broadcast format used outside the U.S.) to NTSC (the U.S. broadcasting format) instead of going back to the original files. My guess is because this was seen as less time consuming and cheaper in some executive’s eyes. But basically, they were lazy. This would account for the poor image quality in some scenes of the DVDs. To further complicate the issue, and I have yet to find the exact story, most of the templates for the CGI models were lost or destroyed. This, and the expense involved in rebuilding everything from scratch is why you are not gonna get B5 on HD any time soon or maybe at all.

Honestly, I don’t think it has a lot to do with the technical hurdle. It’s more of a lack of interest on the part of Warner Brothers. Babylon 5 was lucky to get a fifth season on TNT. It never put up huge ratings and the numbers of viewers continued to decline throughout the series. My guess is that the studio see it as a bad investment. Not that any network or studio has ever given much faith to a sci-fi series. Even Star Trek has had its share of studio problems. But there is a fan base and no real extra expense involved in streaming online. But obviously if Warner Brothers doesn’t think it can make the revenue it thinks it deserves, even for a property it obviously cares little for, then they are going to horde it along with any other property it can until someone gives in and pays up. Which I probably why the only place you can stream episodes on TheWB.Com. And even then it’s only 26 episodes and assorted clips.

There it is folks. It’s all about money. Or at least money WB perceives it can get. Babylon 5 is just buried beneath all that corporate red tape. Forgotten and all alone in the night. But us fans have not forgotten. And those of us fortunate enough to own the series on DVD have the joy of converting our friends and family. That’s how my wife became a fan. Funny side note to that, we met J. Michael Straczynski at SDCC. When I told him that she became a fan when I showed her my DVDs, he said to her, “I’m sorry.” True story. Anyway… You can join the #FreeBabylon5 movement on Twitter and any other place you can think of. Live for the 5. Die for the 5. Well, maybe not die for it. In the end it’s still just a TV show. But you know what I mean.

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