How To Get a Copy of an Old TV Show on DVD, Video, Tape or Even on Computer Files.
Getting Copies of Old TV Shows Can Be Difficult
At one time or another, many people have wished that they could get their hands on a video tape, or DVD of a particular episode of a TV show. There are several reasons that one might want a video of a specific TV show taping. Perhaps you were in the audience on that day and you want a memento. Maybe you were actually shown on camera and you want proof of your 15 seconds of fame. Or maybe there was a segment that you really enjoyed and would like to see again.
Whatever the reason, the hunt for a TV show can be pretty long and hard.
Finding TV Show Tapes
It can be very difficult to get copies of TV shows on files, video tapes, DVDs, betamax or even on VHS. Tapes of all television show episodes do exist, but production companies are not compelled to give people access to them. It's not as simple as going to the video store to get a feature film on DVD. The nature of TV production is fleeting and production companies do not have much of a reason to help you.
Not Financially Feasible For Production Companies to Provide Copies of TV Shows
Many of the shows are cheaply produced and come and go quickly. Even a popular and long-running TV show, like Good Morning America can't make videos commercially available because they tape literally hundreds of hours of footage each year, and it just isn't financially feasible for them to package and sell each day's episode to consumers.
Where To Get Copies of a TV Show - The Local Broadcast Affiliate or TV Production Company?
Local TV Affiliate
If the TV show was shown on Broadcast TV, every local TV affiliate broadcaster will have a copy of any TV show. They often have an archive going back many years. The broadcast channels include NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX. Your local broadcast affiliate may be your first call.
If you contact them and they claim not to have a copy, they will always have a method to get a copy. They need this method for legal reasons, if they get sued. They may not offer the method to you unless you ask. They should have archived copies of everything that they have ever aired, so technically someone at your local ABC affiliate should be able to make you a copy of any episode of Good Morning America.
If you do not get anywhere with the local affiliate, then you can call the head office of the broadcast channel. If that does not work out, then you will have fail over to the source of last resort , which is the original production company, see below.
If the show was broadcast on a cable TV station only, EG MTV's Wild n Out, you will often find that the cable company will have no interest in helping you find a copy of the show. You will then have to find who the original production company of the TV show is and contact them directly. They always keep copies of all TV shows that have aired on broadcast TV and on cable. Some people have resorted to actually suing the TV production companies or the local broadcaster and magically a copy of the show appears a few weeks later.
Media Forms of a TV Show Copy
The media forms of a copy recording can be on DVD, Betamax 1, Betamax 2, VHS, CD-R and even an electronic file using an MP4 encoding allowing it to be played on variety of devices.
NBC Makes TV Show Copy Library Available to General Public
The ever-popular NBC morning show The Today Show is unusual in that it has an official mechanism for requesting copies of tapes through the NBC News Archives. If you call 212-664-3797 or fax a request to 212-703-8558, you can request a video of footage from their archives.
You must tell them the date, subject, and any other helpful information so that they can locate and copy the video footage that you want. Once they get your request, they will send you an agreement form.
Here's the catch: There is a not-so-small fee associated with this service. NBC charges $150 for up to 5 minutes of video. So if you're really intent on getting those 10 seconds of you and your family waving at The Today Show cameras from the window on tape, it's going to cost you.
Digital Video Records (DVRs)
Thankfully the advent of the DVR has lessened the need for frantic searches for these hard-to-find archival tapes and DVDs. Most people, if they plan to attend a TV taping or if they want to see a particular episode of a TV show, they simply set their DVRs. (Or VCRs, if you're really old-school.) And if they forget to set theirs, they might call around and find a friend who happened to record it. The amount of TV episodes that land on YouTube is startling.
Online Video Footage of TV Shows
The increased usage of video on the internet has also made things easier. As more and more TV shows post online video footage of each episode, the need for finding tapes becomes obsolete. For many, if not most, TV shows, you can now go to their official website a day or two after the taping airs to see clips of show highlights and in some cases the entire episode. Some shows even keep years and years worth of this footage in their online archives.
If the official site fails you, or if you're looking for an old episode of a canceled show, there are websites that have archived old footage and clips. For instance, you were able to see many old Ricki Lake Show clips at Youtube.com, Ricki Lake Video Showcase.