Some thoughts on scheduling

Now that we’re sitting around in the cold, TV networks are trusting that we’re sitting down in the evenings to watch what they’ve been saving up for us. Programming foreign hit shows during our peak winter TV viewing season is what they’ve done for years but with the internet playing a more and more stronger role in how people access their television, the return from doing so is going to become increasingly more difficult.

What I find confusing though is that our TV networks tend to opt for US content in prime time peak viewing over local content. While it’s not always the case, I would expect right now that the majority of our funded local content should be on our screens. Sadly, this isn’t so.

We spend a great deal of money on local content which is fantastic in that it creates jobs but what is disappointing is that the networks don’t schedule it accordingly.

Take Step Dave for example. Screening the show in February delivered much lower audiences than it would have were it being screened now.

In Australia, local content is at its peak right now with shows like House Rules, The Voice and Masterchef Australia along with dramas like Offspring dominating the winter line ups.

The thing that bothers me about funding, and has done for quite some time, is that the content that we create just isn’t delivered to audiences when most people are wanting to watch something. Even shows like Media Take and Back Benches are dumped into the small hours.

It could be argued that if people want it, they’ll access it on demand like they do with those big US shows that take months to get here. But why bother at all then?

If we’re going to fund content, can we please also ensure it’s given a prime time audience?

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About the author

Regan is one of the co-founders of Throng Media.
If they're on, I'm usually watching Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, 24, Battlestar Galactica, The X Factor, Survivor, House of Cards, Mad Men and the NRL.
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  • Jas

    The networks have 4 major issues as I see it.
    1) As I said before we are in a different season to the US which can affect viewing numbers and content.
    2) Sourcing revenue. They only really get revenue from advertising but that is falling due to PVRs and the internet. The problem they also have is that those that avoid watching advertising still expect high quality (which costs to produce) but want to watch for free and aren’t willing to contribute either directly or indirectly.
    3) The viewers they could attract back by showing same day will not come back in the numbers they expect or are told by those viewers and this will be for multiple reasons such as
    – It isn’t at the exact same time
    – Cool young hip people don’t watch broadcast TV as it isn’t cool anymore
    – I don’t do adverts, I will only watch if I don’t have to view adverts as I can watch online without them
    – I only watch as a box-set

    4) This is a bit of a combination of the above but a lot of people who don’t view FTA as much or at all are used to the ‘FREE’ internet and having everything provided exactly how they want it and if it isn’t then will complain. It will be very difficult to keep these viewers happy for the return the network would get from them.

    • Danny TV Professional

      Like to see your evidence for quite a few of these points Jas. Only this week stats were published showing that the terrestrial TV audience is still, by far, the most popular way to watch content and internet/streaming remains at between 6-8% of viewing both here and the UK. Viewers are prepared to pay for quality content hence the growing success of HBO, Twilight and, interestingly, the BBC.

    • bobscoffee

      ‘Cool young hip people’ don’t watch broadcast TV as it isn’t ‘cool’ anymore? It’s got nothing to do with whether it’s ‘cool’ or not, it’s to do with convenience.

  • David Finch

    “The thing that bothers me about funding, and has done for quite some time, is that the content that we create just isn’t delivered to audiences when most people are wanting to watch something. Even shows like Media Take and Back Benches are dumped into the small hours.”

    Of course, on TVNZ7 (remember?) these shows were screened in prime time and repeated several times during the week. I’m sure the audience figures would have been higher i.e. more bang for the taxpayer buck. Whether you mean to or not Regan, you make a good argument for a dedicated public service channel. We had one. An ideologically driven National government took it away.

    • Regan Cunliffe

      Yes, I remember. I’m totally for public broadcasting if it is done properly. Yes, National got rid of it and used some poor use of statistics for its justification but you can’t forget that Labour created an environment where TVNZ was supposed to run commercial networks as well as public broadcasting. Labour created an environment for it to fail and then National used that as justification for getting rid of it.

      Is there any political party that takes public broadcasting seriously?

      • David Finch

        I believe the Greens take public broadcasting seriously and I think Labour may well have learned from past mistakes . I will await their policies with interest. But I don’t think it’s fair to blame Labour alone for “creating an environment where TVNZ was supposed to run commercial networks as well as public broadcasting”. The Charter Labour introduced was a response to the policies of previous governments which had allowed TVNZ’s public service function to be seriously eroded. After all, state television in New Zealand has ALWAYS been a mix of commercial and non-commercial. TVNZ itself must wear some of the blame: if they had embraced the charter with anything like the enthusiasm they have shown for National’s policy it could have worked better than it did. But did it really fail? TVNZ7 was growing in popularity and surely would have matured if properly fostered. It didn’t cost much, and as my previous post noted it actually provided a better return on taxpayer investment for shows likes Back Benches and Media 7. As you point out, National’s justification for getting rid of it was tenuous at best.

        • Regan Cunliffe

          I don’t blame labour alone. However, based on the current state of that particular party, it’s quite the stretch to suggest they’ve learned from their mistakes.

          I’ll be interested to see what the Green’s policy is like but in the event that they manage to actually be part of the government after the next election, how much of their policy gets implemented remains to be seen. And whether or not it would be a portfolio they would also oversee.

          To be honest, I don’t think any of the political parties understand how good public broadcasting could be if it were done right.

          It’s all a rather sorry state of affairs…

          • David Finch

            I think it’s much too early to count Labour out on this issue and “The current state of that particular party” strikes me as quite healthy (not the impression the Herald or Mike Hosking or Paul Henry want me to have, I know). We’ll have a clearer idea when the mainstream media get over themselves and start reporting actual policy (as the parties get around to announcing it of course) instead of endless opinionising. I’ve spoken to a couple of prominent Labour MPs on the matter of a public service channel and their responses were very encouraging. Labour at least understands that “public service broadcasting” means something different to “publicly funded content”.

          • Regan Cunliffe

            Well I’m not holding my breath at this point. They’ve all let everyone down and I have very little faith that any of them can restore public broadcasting to what it should be due to them allowing it to be eroded so much over the years.

          • Jas

            What should public broadcasting be? Self-interest group TV funded by anyone other than the self-interest groups themselves?
            Knowing NZ it would be hijacked by ‘middle class left wing liberals’ who will broadcast the same rubbish with the same PC hosts trying to social engineer everyone to their point of view while making those people pay for the privledge.

          • David Finch

            As for ‘paying for the privilege’, my broadcasting tax dollars are currently channelled into subsidies for commercial channels making and screening often mediocre populist programmes, very few which are of interest to me. I don’t actually mind helping to pay for them but we – all of us – deserve more. Where are the history, science and arts programmes (just for example)? Do you seriously believe that it’s only a middle-class left wing “self-interest” group that would value those kind of programmes? Your concern about “PC hosts trying to social engineer everyone to their point of view” is pretty laughable when Paul Henry and Mike Hosking are currently allowed free rein. But why not try answering your own question…. What do YOU think public broadcasting should be?

          • Danny TV Professional

            Well said David Finch. Great to see a reasoned debate and I too laughed at the “PC hosts” remark. What channel are you watching Jas? It all about the content; improve it and viewers will come in droves and the advertisers will follow. Short run and one off drama, music, arts, documentaries of any sort over endless, mindless cooking and lifestyle please. I’d love an NZ ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’. ‘Question Time’ and ‘Gogglebox’.

          • Jas

            Lets hope that it doesn’t mean who the labour party is pitching themselves to now as the audience for public service broadcasting will fall like their support.

          • David Finch

            I don’t understand what you’re trying to say.