57 Channels (And Nothing On)

Posted on 29th January 2009

This Christmas the UK TV programme schedulers and makers obviously decided to have a holiday like the rest of us. Thus what we got was Dr Who, barely a handful of decent films and a vast amount of dross. I thought it was bad last Christmas, but it was decidedly worse this Christmas. Having cable, you might think we have more choice ... and we do, more choice of dross.

20-30 years ago I can remember pouring over the Christmas Radio Times, trying to figure out what I should watch and what to record. Some nights it was a logistical nightmare as all 4 channels (no Channel 5 back then) would occasionally have something worth watching on. Thankfully I had 2 video recorders so I could cover 3 channels okay, but 4 required sweet talking my parents to let me borrow theirs.

Shows like the Dr Who special were a common feature at Christmas, and made for a great night in. The Dr Who special this Christmas was a gem, but it seems to have been the singleton in a once jewel encrusted crown of British TV. These days we have an overwhelming glut of "Celebrity" reality TV shows, dubious talent shows and soaps. The only saving grace has often been the comedy quiz shows, which these days are the stable diet of the Dave channel on cable, but even then you end up craving for a bit of variety.

Once upon a time I would avidly watch the Christmas Lectures, but these days they're buried in the schedules and it becomes too easy to miss them. I'd forgotten about them this year until I turned over to see the end of one. BBC used to make a big thing of the series, but this year I never saw one advert for them. I've been trying to think why other Christmas schedules were so different, but I can't really pinpoint anything precisely, apart from the feeling that there was, and has been for a while now, a distinct lack of imagination for programming schedules. I'm willing to admit that it may just be because I'm getting older, but to be quite honest, teen shows and those catering for the early 20s market are a bit sparse these days too. I get the feeling that the schedulers must be choosing programmes they don't want to watch, so they can go out and party!

Here's hoping next year we get a better choice for those who stay in and watch TV.



The main reason that TV was so bad on the Non-BBC channels is the complete collapse of advertising revenue. TV programs must pay for themselves by the advertising revenue they bring in. The Money to buy these programs is a sunk cost so they leave the shows on the shelf until the advertising rates recover and can pay for them.

Posted by the1_ts on Sunday, 1st February 2009

Forward Planning

Actually that is incorrect, regardless of the channel. All the channels plan their schedules months in advance, and especially so for their Christmas programming. The revenue they have for advertising on non-BBC channels would have been budgeted months before the banking collapse. Also programmes do not get paid based on the advertising, unless there is special contract regarding the promotion of a particular product/company, e.g. Cadbury's and Coronation Street.

Christmas is a special scheduling time, and in the past many shows have been specially recorded for Christmas. Several Christmas specials were once made by comedians and even sit-coms used to make an episode tailored to be broadcast during the period. These days there just doesn't seem to be anyone making those kind of shows. You can't just stick them on the shelf, as they would have likely have passed their sell-by-date if you wait until next Christmas.

I doubt there is actually a lack of ideas for shows, it is more likely the lack of initiative from the channels themselves to plan anything worth watching. If the shows were worth watching they would get the ratings and thus the advertising revenue, so why not invest to get that revenue?

Posted by Barbie on Tuesday, 3rd February 2009

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