The next hour on both channels is devoted to News, local and national. This marks a definite move away from anything associated with children's programming. Despite accusations of 'dumbing down' the news, it will be an extra-ordinary child who watches the main news broadcast voluntarily. ITV places it's local news first, a point to note is a trailer for Family Values after the local news has finished. Family values is another regional programme, the reasoning behind this could be that someone interested in local news could be interested in the lives of local people. The decision by ITV to play the local news first could be because they don't want to go into direct competition with the BBC national news which had 6.6 million viewers on 23rd February, almost as much as ITV's prime time drama The Jury (6.8 million) (Heat issue 159, page 46.)
Moving into the primetime area sees a run of major soap operas. It is possible to watch an hour and a half of back-to-back soaps, 19:00 - 20:00 on ITV then 20:00 - 20:30 on BBC. The viewing figures of Eastenders and Coronation Street are particularly impressive, the BBC gets on average 15.6 million viewers and ITV 13.1 million (Heat issue 159, page 46.) Based on BARBS figures for television ownership (http://www.barb.co.uk/TVFACTS.cfm?fullstory=true&newsid=13) the two major soaps get about 60% of the television owning population. This is important for both the channels, ITV can justify selling the advertising space more expensively, and the BBC can justify its licence fee. If the two soap operas were to go head-to-head, there would be a reduction in viewing figures for one or the other (the combined viewing figures for the two programmes comes to more people than own televisions) therefore there must be a large percentage of people who watch both, the channels do not want to run the risk of losing large swathes of their viewers to the other channel.
Both ITV and the BBC have obviously recognised the pulling power of each other's main soap operas. BBC screen Hard Cash while Coronation Street is on and ITV show Tonight with Trevor McDonald whilst Eastenders is being broadcast. There is a large contrast between the soap opera and it's time slot opposite in each case. Both programmes are current affairs/news based. It is possible the channels have pitched their soap alternative in a similar vein hoping to attract the non-soap viewing audience alienated during this period.
Following the soap marathon are two very different programmes, Changing Rooms on BBC and Millionaire on ITV, this weeks viewing figures show that Changing Rooms won the battle for this slot getting 7.5 million viewers, compared with Millionaire's 7.1 million (http://www.produxion.com/asp/nframe.asp?source=articleviewuser.asp&sid=7&aid=9395). This could be symptomatic of the fact that Millionaire seems to appear every night with no format change, viewers could be becoming bored with the familiarity.
Moving into the post watershed section sees a definite shift in programming. ITV and the BBC both show crime dramas. ITV winning the ratings war with 5.3 million viewers for The Vice and Manhunt only getting 4.9 million (http://www.produxion.com/asp/nframe.asp?source=articleviewuser.asp&sid=7&aid=9395).
Both are part of a series of dramas, Manhunt is the third of six and The Vice is the final part in three feature length episodes. The reason for the larger viewing figures for The Vice therefore could be the fact that it is the final part, a last rush to get the end of the story line, whereas Manhunt being at the middle of a long running plot could have lost viewers through lack of interest.
ITV follow The Vice with a news bulletin and then forty minutes of regional programming. This is pushed into the late night slots, as regional programming never attracts large audiences whenever it is shown. Late night programmes also lose viewers because of the time. Rather than compact the problem and show the regional programming (which they must provide because of the terms of their licence) at prime time when larger viewing figures would be expected ITV is obviously trying to limit the damage to their advertising revenue. An advert for car air freshener is typical of the advertising slots during these programmes. The BBC meanwhile show one hour of comedy, perhaps trying to gain viewers from the regional programming by showing a more popular genre.
The final late night slot in the analysis is taken up with football on ITV and Film 2002 on BBC. A possible ploy to attract the late night 'lad' returning from the pub, strengthened by the fact that Champion's league weekly is sponsored by Amstel beer and features some 'lads' coming into a dark room (representing late night) and watching the football whilst drinking. The advert break in Champion's league weekly features Smirnoff vodka and Playstation two adverts.
"The television scheduler's task is to 'out-think' the opposition, co-operate with the competition when the need arises and to develop and sustain both channel and programme loyalty."(Mullan, B Consuming Television - 67)
The above definition fairly neatly sums up the duties of the scheduler; it is however necessary to investigate how this is attempted.
There is a distinct relationship between budget and time slot, with prime time slots receiving much larger budgets than slots with lower viewing figures. "Overall costs are influenced more by the scheduling mix than by the production costs" (Collins, R et al. The Economics of Television - 23). A larger audience justifies a larger budget, the advertising revenue justifies the larger expenditure and the BBC can justify itself in spending a large amount of money because they achieved a high proportion of the viewing population. It can be clearly seen that Who Wants to be a Millionaire? screened at 20:30 receives a much higher budget than Family Values at 22:50. However, this seems to be a vicious circle, because a programme isn't on at peak time it gets a small budget, because there is a direct relationship between budget and quality "a clear relationship between cost and quality" (Collins, R et al. The Economics of Television - 24) the viewing figures will be lower because the programme isn't high in quality. Automatically this builds limitations into any programme broadcast at a time when the audience is small.
There are many techniques available to the programmer to maintain audience flow. One of these is "lead-in programming" (Hillard, R Television Station Operation and Management - 77). This method utilizes a popular programme in the hope that some of the audience of the popular programme will stay on long enough to see the beginning of the next and hopefully stay tuned for it's entirety. An example of where this method could have been employed is with Eastenders/Changing Rooms on BBC. Eastenders was the most popular programme broadcast that night and changing rooms managed to 'out-audience' it's rival programme. This could be due to viewers staying to watch the next programme.
Another available method is "Counter-programming" (Hillard, R Television Station Operation and Management - 78). This technique involves providing different programme content to a popular show on a rival channel. For example screening Tonight with Trevor McDonald at the same time as Eastenders. Going head to head in this situation would mean audience losses, whereas showing Tonight could tempt viewers who are not interested in the soap operas. It is important to study the make-up of the competitors audience in this situation and try to provide something for the excluded audience.
"Demographics are critical when counter-programming - not only the demographics of the service as a whole, but those of the viewers of the competition's programming." (Hillard, R Television Station Operation and Management - 79)
Not only is it vital to keep a flow between programmes and to counter-act the schedule of competitors, but wider issues must also be considered. The channel must have a 'brand'. Knowing what the target audience is for the entire channel and commissioning programmes to fit those demographics. The continuity announcements, graphics and logos are all integral to this process. For example a 'yoof' announcer may put off many viewers of BBC1, however, a specialist channel may utilise this characteristic to make their target audience feel more at home with the channel and it's content. Furthermore the branding of the channel gives an indication of the channel content and therefore will affect channel loyalty.
* BARB (2001) Television Ownership in Private Domestic Households (1956 - 2001) http://www.barb.co.uk/TVFACTS.cfm?fullstory=true&newsid=13
* Collins, R. Garnham, N. Locksley, G. (1988) The Economics of Television. Sage Publications Ltd. London.
* Frith, M (editor) (2002) Heat Issue 159. Emap Plc. London.
* Hillard, R (1989) Television Station Operations and Management. Butterworth Publishers, USA.
* Horne, N (editor) (2002) Radio Times Yorkshire/Northeast (9-15 March 2002) BBC Publishers, London.
* Mullan, B (1997) Consuming Television. Blackwell Publishers, Oxford.
* Produxion (2002) Changing Rooms Ups Audience. http://www.produxion.com/asp/nframe.asp?source=articleviewuser.asp&sid=7&aid=9395