TV show themetunes in US and abroad
May 11, 2006 3:27 PM   Subscribe

Fox's House MD features a theme tune by Massive Attack in the US, but in Europe it has a different theme called "House" due to licensing problems. What other programs have had to do this, and what does a "licensing problem" mean, exactly?
posted by twine42 to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm assuming that like most "licensing problems" that during re-liscensing negotiations Virgin Atlantic wanted more money than Fox wanted to pay... Massive Attack is more popular and respected in Europe than in America
posted by trinarian at 3:31 PM on May 11, 2006

Similarly, but in reverse, we'll never be able to buy Alley McBeal or WKRP in Cincinanti in the US because the of all the incidental music.
posted by nomisxid at 3:50 PM on May 11, 2006

Music licensing is weird. A show has to license music for different types of broadcasts and different formats--sometimes the music you hear in the original broadcast is replaced in syndication and changed yet again for DVD. How the licensing is done often depends on the artist/publisher. On a show like The O.C. or Grey's Anatomy, a publisher might give away a song for broadcast exposure but demand money for the DVD rights. Licenses can cost more for "featured" songs that are integral to editing/story than songs playing in the background. A song used in a show opener can license for tens of thousands of dollars.

I don't know about House specifically, but I've noticed that some shows use new music for each market, ostensibly to appeal to different sensibilities. The first season of Battlestar Galactica had different theme music in the U.K., for example. The third season of Married With Children on DVD doesn't have the "Love and Marriage" theme song because the license owners wanted too much money.
posted by xyzzy at 3:55 PM on May 11, 2006

It's not uncommon for shows to have completely new, generic soundtracks once they enter syndication, due to licensing issues.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:02 PM on May 11, 2006

There's at least one instance I recall with a Japanese animation show, Kodomo no Omocha (Child's Toy). There were licensing issues with the rock group that did the original opening in Japan, so it could not be used in the US. Instead, they just used the second season opening song.
posted by jeditanuki at 4:13 PM on May 11, 2006

The recent release of the first season of the Muppet Show on DVD had to omit a few numbers from some of the episodes because the rights to the music couldn't be secured. I imagine this happens frequently, especially with variety programs like that. The copy on the backs of the DVDs for Scrubs seem proud to note that the sets include all of the original music from the original broadcasts.
posted by Robot Johnny at 5:27 PM on May 11, 2006

The Wall Street Journal had an article on this within the past week. It's not online for free, but if you're interested you should check out the paper at your local library.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:08 PM on May 11, 2006

Here's a reprint of the WSJ article; it has a lot of detail about why shows like The Wonder Years, WKRP in Cincinnatti and Beverly Hills 90210 aren't out on DVD because of music licensing issues, and about the music substitutions or scene edits other shows have done.
posted by mediareport at 10:44 PM on May 11, 2006

The money paragraph:

Some people in the music-licensing business say they shouldn't be blamed for such song-swapping or scene-cutting. Music-rights holders would be willing to peg the cost of licensing a song to how many DVDs are sold, which would make it cheaper for a show's producers in many cases because sales volume tends to be limited, says Jeffrey Brabec, vice president of business affairs at Chrysalis Music Group, which controls the theme songs to "The Sopranos" and "Las Vegas" (both of which were licensed for DVD release). But, he says, studios prefer to pay a flat fee no matter if one DVD is sold or one million, to protect against getting socked with huge royalty payouts if a DVD becomes a huge seller.
posted by mediareport at 10:47 PM on May 11, 2006

As a UK-ian who downloads most of his TV, I'm shocked about the House thing. I'd never have known if it wasn't for this post..

Frankly though, I prefer the UK song - I always thought that Massive Attack song sounded weird as a theme tune.
posted by ascullion at 2:34 AM on May 12, 2006

Law and Order, when it's on Five in Britain, has a different (much, much less tacky) intro sequence, without the whole "In the criminal justice system..." voiceover, and with a different theme tune. I've never quite worked out what the theme tune is - I'm sure it samples Led Zep's "When the Levee Breaks", and it sounds very similar to parts of Tomoyasu Hotei's "Battle Without Honour or Humanity" but that's not quite it. The UK theme tune was also used in a trailer for one of the Matrix sequels.
posted by matthewr at 2:43 AM on May 12, 2006

I've noticed that when I download Scrubs, the theme tune is noticably at a different pitch than when the show is on UK TV. Could be an NTSC/Pal thing, but I've never noticed it on any other show.
posted by ascullion at 9:51 AM on May 12, 2006

Further to ascullion's comment, I downloaded an episode of Joey that clearly aired on Dutch TV, and the pitch of everything was off... the show was actually running about 4% faster than the US broadcast. I don't know if this was a result of the encoding of the video or if the originating TV station speeds up the tape for some reason.

Anyone know if it's common for european stations to time-compress shows (or parts of shows, like credits) this way?
posted by chudmonkey at 5:12 PM on May 12, 2006

chudmonkey, I'm no expert, but I think this has something to do with the differing frame rates of PAL/NTSC. Not an expert, though, really.
posted by ascullion at 11:18 AM on May 13, 2006

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