Modern broadcasters use broadcast automation to regularly change the scheduling of their programs to build an audience for a new show, retain that audience, or compete with other broadcasters' programs. In the United Kingdom, this is known as TV listings.
Television scheduling strategies are employed to give programs the best possible chance of attracting and retaining an audience. They are used to deliver programs to audiences when they are most likely to want to watch them and deliver audiences to advertisers in the composition that makes their advertising most likely to be effective. Digitally based broadcast programming mechanisms are known as electronic program guides (EPG).
At a micro level, scheduling is the minute planning of the transmission; what to broadcast and when, ensuring an adequate or maximum utilization of airtime.
With the beginning of scheduled television in 1936, television programming was initially only concerned with filling a few hours each evening – the hours now known as prime time. Over time, though, television began to be seen during the day time and late at night, as well on the weekends. As air time increased so did the demand for new material. With the exception of sports television, variety programs became much more important in prime time.
Block programming occurs when the television network schedules similar programs back-to-back. The concept is to provide similar programming to retain viewership.
Bridging is being used when a station tries to prevent the audience from changing channels during a junction point - the main evening breaks where all channels stop programs and shift gear. This is achieved in a number of ways including: having a program already underway and something compelling happening at a junction point, running a program late so that people ‘hang around’ and miss the start of other programs, or using a television advertisement of the next program during the credits of the previous.
Crossprogramming involves the interconnection of two shows. This is achieved by extending a storyline over two episodes of two different programs.
Counterprogramming is the practice of offering television programs to attract an audience from another television station airing a major event. It is also referred when programmers offer something different from the rival’s program as an alternative, to increase the audience size, and is used when a time period is filled with a program whose appeal is different from the opponent program because it is a different genre or appeals to a different demographic.
Dayparting is the practice of dividing the day into several parts, during each of which a different type of radio programming or television programming appropriate for that time is aired. Daytime television programs are most often geared toward a particular demographic, and what the target audience typically engages in at that time.
- Early morning news
- Early morning
- Late morning
- Daytime television
- Early fringe
- Lunchtime news
- Early afternoon
- Late afternoon
- Early evening
- Evening news
- Prime time
- Late-night news
- Late night television
- Graveyard slot
- Sign-off (closedown)
- Late fringe
- Post late-fringe
Hammocking is a technique used by broadcasters whereby an unpopular program is scheduled between two popular programs in the hope that viewers will watch it. Public television uses this as a way of promoting serious but valuable content.
In hotswitching, the programmers eliminate any sort of commercial break when one program ends and another begins; this immediately hooks the audience into watching the next program without a chance to change the television channel between programs.
Season splitting is the practice of broadcasting one season of a series in two parts, with a scheduled break in between. This allows for the second half of the season to be programmed strategically separately from the first.
Spoiling tactics are used to grab audience share, when broadcasters have similar products going head to head. In such cases broadcasters may jostle in getting a slightly earlier airing date or time, in the hope that once viewers have become committed to a program they will not switch channels.
Stripping is running a syndicated television series every day of the week. It is commonly restricted to describing the airing of shows which were weekly in their first run; The West Wing could be stripped, but not Jeopardy!, as the latter is already a daily show. Shows that are syndicated in this way generally have to have run for several seasons (the rule of thumb is usually 100 episodes) in order to have enough episodes to run without significant repeats.
In tent pole programming, the programmers bank on a well-known series having so much audience appeal that they can place two unknown series on either side, and it is the strength of the central program that will draw viewers to the two other shows.
A show's time slot or place in the schedule could be crucial to its success or failure (see tentpoling above). It may affect casting; for example, ABC replaced Robert Lansing's character on Twelve O'Clock High because the show moved from 10 pm to 7:30 pm. Promising new series would often be premiered behind hits to help build an audience. Conversely, failing shows could be consigned to unfavorable times, such as the Friday night death slot.
A typical scheduling strategy used in Argentinian radio and television is called "pase" (Spanish for a "pass" as in a player passing the ball to another player of the same team). A few minutes before the end of a live broadcast show, followed by another live broadcast show, people from both programmes will share some air time together. This may be used for people from the starting programme to anticipate its contents of the day, or to participate in an ongoing discussion in the previous show, or simply for an entirely independent debate or chat that will not be furthered after the "pase". On the radio, where newscasts are usually broadcast every thirty minutes, often in coincidence with the end of a show, the "pase" may take some minutes before the news, and sometimes some minutes afterwards, too.
Alternatively, if there is no "pase", light jokes or comments can be made in a show involving people of the following show, so that some viewers or listeners might be interested in hearing what the reply will be.
Also, when a station has a new show starting, or if it needs to boost its ratings, part of its cast will be featured in other programmes in the same station, inserted in the dynamics of the programme they are in. For example, they will participate in game shows, be interviewed by the journalists of the station, make cameos in a series, substitute for the usual staff of other shows in their habitual functions, etc. Additionally, hosts of live programmes may mention repeatedly the new show and its time slot, trying to encourage their own viewers to watch it.
- Eastman, S. T., and Ferguson, D. A. (2013). Media programming: Strategies and Practices (9th ed.), Boston: Thomson Wadsworth.
- Ellis, J. (2000) Seeing Things: Television in the Age of Uncertainty, London: I.B. Tauris.
- Uribe, R., Buzeta, C. and Hurtado, D. (2011). "Looking for the audiences: The effect of using partial counterprogramming and a friendlier style of news presentation". INNOVAR 21 (42): 151–159. Retrieved 29 April 2014.
- Plunkett, John (April 3, 2013). "The Voice v Britain's Got Talent: scheduling wars recommence". The Guardian. BBC One. Retrieved November 13, 2017.
- Brown, Maggie (September 23, 2012). "BBC pilots Tuesday night slot as it takes on ITV in the battle of the costume dramas". The Guardian/The Observer. Retrieved November 13, 2017.
- Vane, E.T., and Gross, L.S. (1994) Programming for TV, radio and cable, Boston: Focal Press.
- Lewis, Jerry D. (15–21 May 1965). "The General Died at Dusk / Robert Lansing was fine on 10 o'clock missions, but..." TV Guide. p. 24. Retrieved 21 September 2013.