Written by TV

Television Scheduling Moans

Last week Channel 4 stripped their four part thriller, The Fear, across Monday to Thursday, nightly at 10pm. They ran lots of press advertising that I saw, even after the first episode had aired.
I’ve explained previously why I think TV channels that adopt this kind of scheduling are foolish. But rather than go through them again when you can read them at your leisure, I’ll just say that I had all four episodes saved up on my PVR, and having read The Observer’s review last weekend, and so they ended up deleted and unwatched. That’s a fate much less likely if there was only a single episode had been awaiting me. I’d at least give it a go.
At the same time, ITV was coming out of several interminable of weeks of nonentities stuck in a set – or “jungle” – somewhere in Australia. The same problem in reverse abounds. I’m not interested in that show, nor the weekend karaoke show, so the odd Champions’ League games aside, I’ve not watched ITV at all for weeks.
Therefore when ITV then launches some interesting sounding – as The Town, in retrospect, did – I simply don’t learn about it in advance. The most effective and cheapest way of a TV station telling me about their upcoming attractions is to promote them within their current ones. Unfortunately, if you’ve decided to hand your entire primetime schedule over to an admittedly popular, yet quite polarising programme, you can’t be surprised when viewers don’t return.
Oh, and this week the final episode of The Hour, which has aired on Wednesday evenings, went out on a Thursday for what are undoubtedly scheduling reasons. How many viewers missed that I wonder?
Anyone from Britain who’s ever visited the US may have noticed the vast amount of advertising for TV programmes. New York buses, taxis and billboards all regularly promote TV shows. If companies like ITV and Channel 4 are going to continue to adopt these strange scheduling decisions, then they’re going to need to do more marketing.
I literally had no idea The Town was on ITV. I hadn’t seen a single trailer. Yes, ITV no doubt rammed it down the throats of jungle/karaoke views, but while those shows reach perhaps 12m, there are more than the same again still available to view but who need to be told.
Newspapers can, and do, do a good job. But fewer of us are reading them.
Perhaps a better solution is not to turn over your entire schedule to a single show. While the short term ratings seem essential, I’m not sure that the longer term damage isn’t worse.
ITV has become almost entirely reliant on cycles of X Factor, I’m A Celebrity, Britain’s Got Talent and to an extent, Dancing on Ice. What happens, as is seeming to happen with The X Factor, when audiences begin to tire? You end up in the same position that Channel 4 found itself in a post Big Brother world. It continues to struggle despite excellent Paralympics work. Drama is slowly coming back now they’ve cancelled the interminable Shameless and are actually investing some cash. But they really need to take ownership of a slot so viewers learn to tune in on Mondays at 9pm or wherever, for a drama hit. To some extent Homeland does this a little, but it’s quickly become 24 and rubbish.
Finally, an noteworthy aside. I missed The Town, and ITV has no narrative repeat in the same week beyond the +1 channel the same night. So to watch it I used Sky’s catch-up service. Interestingly, this delivered me the show completely unencumbered by either advertising or sponsorship credits. Just 43 minutes of the actual programme. Great for the viewer, but perhaps not so great for ITV’s funding model.
On the other hand, the 4OD method of delivery is not the way to go. All I ever hear from people catching up on 4OD is that they just have too many adverts. Someone I know missed the last 20 minutes of an episode of Homeland so wanted to catch up. Because each “act” of a show has an unmissable set of 6×30 second ads, she had to watch TWELVE MINUTES of advertising before getting to what she wanted. Someone else said to me that they’ll just not watch the programme at all rather than use 4OD.
Again, I know that Channel 4 has to make money on its programming, but running its current extreme levels of unskippable advertising is not a long-term solution. Fewer, premium ads would seem a more sensible way to work.
PS Can be Comedy Central and BBC Three please stop their incessant on screen promos for the next programme while I’m still watching this one. That’s particularly the case when it blocks the captions on The Daily Show.
PPS For the benefit of BBC Three’s continuity announcers: “funny” is not a noun.