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In a linear TV broadcast, program scheduling is a very important aspect not only to maintain your viewer’s attention but also to optimize your content’s performance. The basic idea is that our best (and usually most expensive) content should be planned to air in the best time possible when it will attract the most viewers.
So, scheduling is about finding a balance between the needs of your audience and managing your resources. This is how successful TV stations built their brand through clever and effective scheduling.
Nowadays, it’s easier than ever to start a linear TV broadcast, and virtually everyone can now own a TV channel. However, very few have mastered the art and the know-how of how to schedule TV programs. Here, we will discuss how.
TV Program Scheduling
Program scheduling is an act of organizing and ordering content in a linear broadcast media like linear TV and radio. The scheduling can be planned weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually, but the core idea is to plan what and when to schedule so we can attract as many ideal audiences as possible.
Scheduling is a huge part of TV branding, which will, in turn, define the TV’s audience. When the audience is defined, the TV can attract more advertisers targeting the same audience, which will result in profitable TV business.
So, it’s very important to maintain the right TV scheduling (or programming) to maintain the satisfaction level of our audience.
On the other hand, TV scheduling is also about managing resources. All TV stations obviously have limited resources, and a program might be more expensive than the others. Proper scheduling is necessary to ensure we can maximize the ROI of every program/content and to fill the 365 days of 24/7 live streaming with the right content.
For example, if we purchase content from a third-party source and the contract says you are only allowed to show each episode five times in a year, then we should schedule this content carefully. We’d want to make sure we don’t show less than five times a year—or else we’ll waste money—, and at the same time, we’d want to make sure they are shown at the best possible time.
The Principles of TV scheduling
First things first, it’s important to always assume that your TV viewers are loyal to the show, not the station/channel. It’s very rare for viewers to have loyalty to the station, and in planning our TV schedule, we should always use this assumption.
TV scheduling should be data-driven: we should gather insights for audience data, and use these insights to drive the composition of our TV schedule. We should select the shows that can attract the specific target audience depending on the programming slot.
An important thing to consider is that although the TV schedule should be structured, we should also ensure that there’s enough room to exercise versatility in cases where we’d need to slip breaking news or new shows to accommodate the recent trends.
In general, especially if you produce your own content, your schedule should be ready at around 10 weeks before airing and should be fully implemented into your scheduling system around 8 weeks before transmission.
TV Scheduling Strategies
Here are some common scheduling strategies you can follow:
the most basic practice is to arrange shows based on time slots: earlier prime time slots (i.e. 7 PM) can attract younger audiences and families, but later time slots appeal more towards older demographics. We should also consider competing channels’ attractive programs in considering our time slots.
related to time slot, dayparting is the practice of dividing the day into several parts, and we schedule shows depending on a particular demographic, and what the target audience of the ‘part’ typically engages at that time. Typically divided into something like this:
- Early morning news
- Early morning
- Late morning
- Daytime television
- Early fringe
- Lunchtime news
- Early afternoon
- Late afternoon
- Early evening
- Evening news
- Late-night news
- Late-night show
- Graveyard slot/death slot
- Late fringe
the practice of scheduling a group of content that can support each other as a ‘block’. We can build blocks depending on target audiences, specific genres, or other factors. A benefit of block programming is that we can also promote the block together in a single marketing effort (i.e. “TGIF RomCom”)
bridging is a technique designed to discourage the audience from changing channels between different programs. A common strategy is to air the promotions for the next program during the credit roll. Also, we can schedule programs at 5 minutes past the hour (or 35 minutes past the half-hour). This is to prevent people to switch channels to shows that had already started on other channels.
we can dedicate some or all parts of the schedule over a period of time to a specific theme, which is common during major holidays (Christmas, Halloween, etc.) where we can air movies and shows related to the holiday.
the idea of tentpoling is to put two relatively low-performance shows between a famous show that can attract a lot of audiences. This is to boost the two other shows with the popularity of the central show.
the opposite of tentpoling where a ‘weaker’ show is sandwiched between two popular shows. The idea is also similar, hoping that the two popular shows can help boost the low-performance show.
a practice to run a single series in a daily time slot, usually on weekdays. This is commonly done especially for reruns of programs that originally aired on a weekly basis.
TV scheduling is a very important part of building your TV channel’s brand, and with an online TV channel created with Viloud, you can easily create a scheduled channel for linear broadcasting. Scheduling is not only important in attracting our target audience at the most appropriate time but also to maximize the value of our content and manage our resources.
It’s very important to really understand our TV channel’s target audience as well as our competitor’s content to really create an effective TV schedule planning.