On Tuesday, bleary-eyed Japanese television viewers will be riveted to their screens in the wee hours of the morning, mesmerized by the latest American import - the Boston Marathon.
In Beijing, Hong Kong, Canada and across Europe, the time zones may change, but the scene will be the same. The Boston Marathon, long one of the world's most famous road races, has jumped into the international television age.Monday's 93rd edition of the fabled race will be viewed in over 51 countries and will be broadcast to more than 17 million U.S. households.
"It's become a very attractive property," said Robert Briner,president of Dallas-based ProServ Television Inc., the race's domestic and international distributor. "But even I'm surprised by some of the markets we were able to sell it to this year."
The Boston Marathon is just the latest American sporting event to take advantage of the booming foreign television market. In Western Europe, the number of television stations has jumped from 38 in 1982 to a projected 110 by the end of next year.
Likewise, the Asian market - particularly in Japan - also is growing.
"It's (the Asian market) hot and getting hotter all the time," Briner said. "I think what is happening out there is sort of what is happening in Europe and other parts of the world. There is a homogenization of the world television market.
"Sports is particularly attractive, especially American sports. In both network meetings I had in Hong Kong last week, the station managers wanted to know about the availability of American baseball. In the past, when we brought up the subject of baseball their eyes just glazed over.
"That is what happened with the Boston Marathon. We just made what, by our standards and experience, is a big deal for the marathon with Japanese television and also sold it to Beijing, Hong Kong and Korea."
The race will be aired live in Japan, with race coverage beginning about 3:30 a.m. local time.
"In Japan, they run American sports on television no matter what time it is," Briner said. "They love American sports, so they've become accustomed to getting up at odd hours to watch big events."
A one-hour edited version of the race will also air in Kuala Lumpar, Jakarta, Singapore and possibly Manila.
But unlike the multimillion-dollar rights fees generally paid by American networks, the overseas fees generally are much smaller. TV Tokyo paid in the low six figures for the broadcast rights to the Boston Marathon, whereas the other Asian deals were from $20,000 to $30,000.