Television audiences here are enjoying shorter waits to catch their favourite shows, as cable channels are broadcasting programmes faster than ever after their initial telecast overseas.
Starting July, HBO Asia will broadcast all original HBO and Cinemax programmes less than 24 hours after their premiere in the United States.
Currently, Singaporean viewers have to wait around one week after the shows' US debuts before they can watch them on TV here.
An upcoming show to fall under HBO Asia's new scheme is The Knick directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring Clive Owen, Cinemax's period drama set in a hospital in early 20th century New York City.
The latest episodes of HBO's original series such as The Newsroom and Boardwalk Empire will also be available on TV here within one day of their American premieres come July.
The new move is part of the cable channel's efforts to combat online piracy, given how easy it is for Internet users to illegally access such programmes almost immediately after they are broadcast overseas.
HBO TV series Game Of Thrones is reportedly the world's most pirated TV show with more than four million illegal downloads per episode.
On HBO Asia's new scheme, the company's CEO, Mr Jonathan Spink, says: "By offering viewers legitimate content in a timely and more convenient manner, we hope to be able to continue to encourage viewers to support the fight against online piracy."
Asked how the company is now able to accommodate the speedier broadcast, Ms Magdalene Ew, HBO Asia's head of marketing in content and creative services, says that "in addition to receiving materials slightly earlier than before to cater to subtitling and regulatory content requirements, changes have to be made to internal and vendor work processes".
She adds: "Operational costs have gone up to ensure a shorter window, but we think it's an investment we should undertake to add value to our viewers by offering legitimate content faster, given the rampant phenomenon of online theft."
HBO Asia is not the only company doing this. Other cable channels have also been trying to minimise the waiting time for TV audiences here in order to stay competitive and reduce potential for piracy.
Cable channel Fox Movies Premium (StarHub TV Channel 622), for example, broadcasts the fourth and latest season of hit zombie drama The Walking Dead just 11/2 hours after it is first shown in the US.
Cable channel Star Chinese Channel (StarHub TV Channel 822) broadcasts the second season of popular reality TV series We Got Married Global Edition on the same day as it is telecast in South Korea.
Previously, most foreign TV programmes were shown here at least a few weeks or even up to a few months after their original telecast in their country of production.
Mr Joon Lee, executive vice-president of content and communications for Asia Pacific and the Middle East at Fox International Channels Asia, which owns both Fox Movies Premium and Star Chinese Channel, says the shorter wait "caters to the changing demands and trends in TV viewership as original fresh content is delivered promptly to viewers' homes, reducing their needs for alternative viewing sources".
Given how wired media consumers are today, faster broadcasts are also necessary for viewers to avoid spoilers, which are often splattered all over the Internet as soon as the programmes are broadcast.
Mr Ang Hui Keng, senior vice-president and general manager of Sony Pictures Television Networks, Asia, says that certain shows are "time-sensitive", and that "the results of each episode, if not broadcast as closely to the US as possible, can result in spoilers and ultimately diminish viewers' enjoyment of the show".
These shows include the reality TV series The Amazing Race, where contestants are eliminated from the show on a weekly basis. Cable channel AXN (StarHub TV Channel 511) airs the 24th and latest season of the series within one day of the show's initial broadcast in the US.
While it would appear ideal for all TV programmes to follow suit, industry players say that it is simply not possible.
Mr Scott Mackenzie, vice-president, Channels, Asia, at NBCUniversal, which runs cable channels such as Diva Universal (StarHub TV Channel 522) and E! Entertainment (StarHub TV Channel 441), says: "Processes like translation, subtitling and editing to make content compliant with local broadcast regulations all take time."
Ms Michele Schofield, senior vice-president of programming and marketing at A+E Networks Asia, which runs channels such as History (StarHub TV Channel 401) and Lifetime (StarHub TV Channel 514), says that for a lot of acquired content, "the studios are given access to the materials only on the day of US broadcast, which makes it nearly impossible for us to do a turnaround that same day (other than receiving the delivery via satellite), and then we forfeit localised language for the premiere week".
Another cable TV executive, who declined to be named, points out that in the US, many programmes premiere at the same time across many channels. As TV companies here often acquire content from several different American channels, it is therefore impossible to broadcast them all at the same time here. The programmes then need to be spread out across the broadcast schedule.
TV fan Henry Sim, 34, says even if quicker turnarounds are not possible for every show, he is happy that many popular programmes are being shown faster than before.
Mr Sim, who follows The Walking Dead, says: "It is very easy for people to watch TV shows online through illegal means.
"But if people can catch those shows through their regular cable TV package without waiting very long and without having to pay extra, there is no reason for them to do things illegally anymore. Hopefully, the faster broadcasts will be a trend for many more TV shows."
HOT SHOWS TO CATCH
HBO and Cinemax Originals
What: Starting July, all original HBO (StarHub TV Channel 601) and Cinemax (StarHub TV Channel 611) programmes will air in Singapore within one day of their United States premieres.
This includes upcoming Cinemax period drama The Knick, directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring English actor Clive Owen, centred on a hospital in early 20th century New York City. Other hit original HBO series include The Newsroom and Boardwalk Empire.
We Got Married Global Edition Season 2
South Korea telecast: Saturday nights
Singapore telecast: Every Saturday at 7pm on Star Chinese Channel (StarHub TV Channel 822, SingTel mio TV Channel 507)
What: The latest season of the popular reality show has two new celebrity pairs pretending to be married couples: Kim Hee Chul from boy band Super Junior with Taiwan's Puff Kuo of girl group Dream Girls, as well as Key from South Korean boy band Shinee with Japanese model Yagi Arisa.
24: Live Another Day
US telecast: Premieres May 5
Singapore telecast: Premieres on AXN (StarHub TV Channel 511) on May 6 at 10pm
What: Set four years after the end of hit TV series 24 (2001-2010), ex-special agent Jack Bauer (played by Kiefer Sutherland) returns to do what he can to fight terrorism while on the run as a fugitive.
The Amazing Race Season 24
US telecast: Sunday nights
Singapore telecast: Every Monday at 9.05pm on AXN (StarHub TV Channel 511)
What: The latest season of the popular reality TV competition has contestants undergoing various mental and physical challenges across countries such as Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Italy.
Vikings Season 2
US telecast: Thursday nights
Singapore telecast: Every Friday at 10pm on History (StarHub TV Channel 401)
What: This historical drama centres on the story of Viking Ragnar Lothbok (played by Travis Fimmel) and how he plunders and raids his way through Europe to achieve fame and power.
US telecast: Week nights
Singapore telecast: Within the same day as US broadcast, various times, on E! Entertainment (StarHub TV Channel 441)
What: A show that looks at the latest entertainment news and interviews with the hottest Hollywood stars.
American Idol Season 13
US telecast: Wednesday and Thursday nights
Singapore telecast: Thursday and Friday nights at 6pm on Star World (StarHub TV Channel 501, SingTel mio TV Channel 301)
What: A new batch of wannabe stars battle it out to become the next American singing idol in the latest season of the hit reality TV competition. Judges for this season are Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr.