See Also: TNT's B5 Web site - Canadian letter-writing campaign
The following are letters from TNT's programming department about what they're up to with B5. They address lots of different questions people have asked since the season-5 renewal announcement was made.
The following summary is current as of October 31, 1997.
Hi, guys. Here's an update on the situation with B5 appearing on TNT. A lot of this material that follows may or may not be stuff you've read before, but a lot is quite different, too. Here we go:
As you probably know, BABYLON 5 is headed for Turner Network Television (at least in the United States) in January 1998; it will be seen in the US exclusively on TNT, and will be dropped from your local syndicated outlet's roster. Already, the 1:00 and shorter promos are showing often on TNT. The promos will be available on the website eventually, once our more extensive B5 site launches in January. The preliminary B5 on TNT website launched on November 5, though, and includes a FAQ list and a chat room. Check it out at tnt.turner.com/babylon5. The other promotional materials-- posters, bus sides and so forth (not available to fans, except through eventual website contests)-- are currently in production and should be hitting the streets some time in late November/early December. Anyway, here's a timeline of B5 events on TNT:
And that's the end of the B5 timeline, for right now. We're working on collating all the series info and graphics we need for the TNT website, but we don't want people to think it's a fall addition to TNT, so, as I've said, we're waiting until November or so to launch, to avoid confusion. You'll hear about the site through here at Lurker's or on The Zocalo, though, so don't worry--you'll know about it when it happens.
Now, to some ancillary issues:
THE FINAL FOUR OF SEASON FOUR: Of course, some fans are writing, lamenting the fact that their local station has dropped the final four B5 eps of the fourth season. We're a little afraid that showing the final four before the bow of the fifth season will be confusing to any non-fan viewers, and it's not as if the situation is not confusing enough, what with three separate premiere dates for varying facets of the series. We know the votes of B5 fans worldwide would favor the airings, but we have to think of all 70 million of our subscribers when we program something. The fact is, that 90% of the country is getting the final four aired somewhere on their TV schedule, so it means we'd be running them for only the 10% who weren't getting the series. That's too small a number for us. So, sorry, but it doesn't look as the airing of the final four before the premiere of the 5th season episodes is going to happen.
AIR TIMES: B5 fans from the West Coast have been calling and writing in, asking for a second showing of the daily episode at a later time (like, say 10 or 11 pm ET), so that they can see the series in prime time. Unfortunately, though, we really have to concentrate on our movie library and sporting events after the 8 pm ET hour, so I don't see episodes of B5 being programmed after that time period (if we programmed B5 at, say 8, 9 or 10 pm ET, it'd be pre-empted at least three times a week, for basketball and wrestling, both to which we have an equally strong committment). Sorry--B5 will appear weekdays on the West coast at either 3 or 4 pm PT...at least for a little while. BUT HERE'S THE GOOD NEWS: TNT is adding a West Coast feed to their operations sometime in mid- to late 1998. This means that, what airs at 7 pm Eastern will also air at 7 pm Pacific. So, eventually, during the B5's time on TNT, the show will be seen in a more accessible time slot on the West Coast.
THEATRICAL SCREENINGS: Bad news--we can't have theatrical screenings of the show, for complex legal/contractual reasons. So don't be expecting this come January 1998...
EPISODE ORDERING: We will be getting an episode ordering from JMS that will reflect the PROPER order for the series' episodes, which we will slavishly follow.
CLOSE CAPTIONING: I've been assured that all B5 episodes and movies will be close-captioned. Everything will go smoothly in this regard...
LETTERBOXING: No chance of B5 being aired on a regular basis in letterbox, but we have discussed the possibilities of having a letterboxed week or a letterbox marathon of shows, and they were open to that. No dates or anything for that, though. It probably won't happen for a while...
STEREO: I know B5 is mixed for Surround Sound stereo, and is greatly enhanced by such. FYI, TNT does broadcast in Surround Sound stereo, when it's available on the materials we're broadcasting. For instance, while some of our older movies and TV shows were originally recorded in mono, our sports, TNT Originals, specials, and some newer movies and TV series (including B5, of course) are all broadcast and will be broadcast in stereo. I cannot, however, say if your cable company RECEIVES us in stereo, but the bottom line is: we DO broadcast as such, when we can. If you are not currently recieveing stereo on your TNT reception, call your cable company and make sure they don't recieve us in stereo; there is nothing we can personally do to MAKE them broadcast us in stereo, though, as we have no control over cable affiliates' operations. And my only suggestion towards your efforts to make them recieve us in stereo: badger, badger, badger (or get a satellite dish).
BUGS (LOGOS): It now seems as if the SMALL, TRANSPARANT TNT logo is up permanently on our network's programming. We know this won't be a popular decision with B5 fans, but this is something that we HAVE TO start doing to foster recognizability of TNT, not just during B5, but during movies and LOIS AND CLARK and everything on TNT. Why? Well, there are 70 channels out there for the average cable subscriber to choose from (let's don't even get INTO satellite). In the age of remote controls, people don't pay attention to channels or numbers or anything like that anymore, unless it's drilled into their head (also we con't rely on our promos to do to this, because for all we know, people are changling the channels during the commercials). The days of "ABC's on 2, NBC's on 11 and CBS is on 5" are over. Networks must do something to make themselves and their locations on your "dial" much more noticable (Sci- Fi Channel keeps their bug up 24-7...). Therefore, the logos (bugs) will be a regular fixture on B5. But, again, it is a transparant logo, and very small.
VOICE-OVERS/SQUEEZE CREDITS DURING CLOSING CREDIT: In order to let them know what's coming up next on our network (or any network) voice-overs and, sometimes, squeeze credits are necessary to keep people with shorter attention spans/low tolerance for credits tuned into the network. Squeeze credits will probably rarely be used. But voice-overs are guaranteed to be a daily staple on the B5 credits. However, we will relax our policy for the following episodes: "Chrysalis," "And Now For A Word," "The Fall of Night," "Walkabout," "And The Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place," "Z'Ha'Dum," and "Atonement." These episodes have been flagged with a NO V.O. notice, in order to provide fans/viewers with one episode a season where they can hear the theme music running over the credits, as well as to avoid stepping on special audio material played during the closing credits of various episodes.
VIDEO RELEASE OF B5: I've just heard that Columbia House Home Video will be releasing B5 to tape starting in November 1997. Two episodes per tape. I don't have pricing info, but I do have their website address: www.columbiahouse.com.
DISTRIBUTION FOR THE REST OF THE WORLD: TNT's job is not to internationally distribute TV series, B5 or otherwise, but is instead to program a DOMESTIC cable network available in the United States. When it comes to all of this other stuff--international distribution, videotape possibilities, DVD--Warner Brothers is the answer-giver! We didn't BUY "Babylon 5" lock, stock and barrel from WB--we just "rented" it; they retain ownership--it's just that no one else domestically can show the series, at least, for as long as our contracts go. So, since TNT bought, from Warner Brothers, the rights ONLY to show "Babylon 5" in the United States, there are no plans on our end to make it available for Canada, Australia, TNT Europe, TNT Asia, or TNT Latin America (all of which, despite having TNT as part of their names, are separte channels with completely separate operations and budgets and programming agendas). I know this is easy for me to say, but don't worry too much--Warner Brothers knows of the desire of fans worldwide to see any new Babylon 5 episodes or movies, and I'm sure they'll make accomodations for you to see them, either by selling the movies/episodes to TNT Asia, TNT Europe, and/or TNT Latin America, or to foreign syndication, or at the very least to a videotape distributor (I know that, in BRITAIN, for instance, they'll still continue to put 5th season episodes and the new movies on videotape). I don't work for Warner Brothers Distribution or Home Video, though, so I can't tell you what their plans are; all I can tell you is what's going on in my sphere of knowledge, and that sphere pretty much begins and ends with TNT Domestic (or, at the very most, the Turner side of Time/ Warner). Sorry I can't help more...
Well, hopefully, all this info answers any questions you may have about our plans for B5. Again, as fans ourselves, we're thrilled to be carrying the series. It's intelligently written, beautifully performed, inpeccably crafted, and always incredibly exciting and ambitious--what more could we want from a show? You all have our deepest gratitude for taking the time to send us your congratulations and thanks! We're very much looking forward to having you guys as regular viewers in 1998! Take care.
Dean Treadway @ TNT Programming