Global TV

Exporting Television and Culture in the World Market

288 pages

22 illustrations

August, 2008

ISBN: 9780814799420



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Denise D. Bielby is Professor of Sociology and affiliated faculty in Film and Media Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is the co-author (with C. Lee Harrington) of Soap Fans: Pursuing Pleasure and Making Meaning in Everyday Life and co-editor of Popular Culture: Production and Consumption.

All books by Denise D. Bielby

C. Lee Harrington is Professor of Sociology at Miami University. She is the author (with Denise D. Bielby) of Soap Fans (1995) and Global TV (2008).

All books by C. Lee Harrington

A reporter for the Los Angeles Times once noted that “I Love Lucy is said to be on the air somewhere in the world 24 hours a day.” That Lucy’s madcap antics can be watched anywhere at any time is thanks to television syndication, a booming global marketplace that imports and exports TV shows. Programs from different countries are packaged, bought, and sold all over the world, under the watch of an industry that is extraordinarily lucrative for major studios and production companies.

In Global TV, Denise D. Bielb and C. Lee Harrington seek to understand the machinery of this marketplace, its origins and history, its inner workings, and its product management. In so doing, they are led to explore the cultural significance of this global trade, and to ask how it is so remarkably successful despite the inherent cultural differences between shows and local audiences. How do culture-specific genres like American soap operas and Latin telenovelas so easily cross borders and adapt to new cultural surroundings? Why is The Nanny, whose gum-chewing star is from Queens, New York, a smash in Italy? Importantly, Bielby and Harrington also ask which kinds of shows fail. What is lost in translation? Considering such factors as censorship and other such state-specific policies, what are the inevitable constraints of crossing over?

Highly experienced in the field, Bielby and Harrington provide a unique and richly textured look at global television through a cultural lens, one that has an undeniable and complex effect on what shows succeed and which do not on an international scale.


  • Global TV offers a richly textured account of the professional practices and protocols that govern the television marketplace. . . . A must read for those wishing to understand the complex cultural dynamics of globalization.”

    —Michael Curtin, author of Playing to the World’s Biggest Audience: The Globalization of Chinese Film and TV

  • Global TV is a major contribution to the important but neglected topic of globalization in cultural industries. Bielby and Harrington demonstrate the major role of distribution in shaping the characteristics and meanings of cultural exports. Through extensive field work they have obtained a rich body of insights into the perspectives of both television buyers and sellers in an industry that is changing rapidly over time and that varies greatly from one country to another.”

    —Diana Crane, author of The Production of Culture: Media and the Urban Arts

  • ”Bielby and Harrington bring their sociological perspective and methodology to the study of internationalized television cultures, providing a fine grained net of evidence which test theories of globalization and cultural imperialism. This book should recast the landscape of global television studies.”

    —Christina Slade, author of The Real Thing: Doing Philosophy with Media

  • Through an ethnographic examination of the social organization of the global television marketplace, Bielby and Harrington make an important contribution that furthers understanding of the nature of global television business.