|Lecture 8: Programs and Programming Basics
Economic Constraints -- Understand ways that commercial programmers find themselves constrained and how they cope with limitations
Syndication -- How syndication works, how syndex affects viewer options, similarities between radio and TV
Program Types -- Various options and classifications in programming
Sources of entertainment programming -- How broadcast and cable networks obtain programming and how cost is determined
News and Sports Sources -- The difference between these programs at the network and local levels, how they are produced
Scheduling Practices -- Concerns for audience flow, and scheduling strategies to maintain flow.
Program Promotion -- Understand promotion efforts that are necessary for successful programming
**Refer to the definition of programming, p.21 6.**
Audience Targeting -- Hardly anyone tries to appeal to the entire mass audience anymore -- especially true of radio and cable TV - thus the terms narrowcasting and niche services. This is largely due to the influence of advertisers. The big three networks target the largest groups, but not with specific programming. Programmers and advertisers are interested in demographics and psychographics. Radio uses segmentation - all this is part of the reason for multi-station operators.
Parsimony Principle - definition: sparingness in expenditure, a disposition to avoid expense. Programming is so expensive that program materials must be employed thusly: Sparing use - stretching out the material, Repeated use - self explanatory, Shared use - talking primarily about networking and syndication.
Program Expenditures and Financing
Prime Time Costs - Prime time lasts for three hours in the evening. Of five billion
a year spent on programming, 3/5 of it goes for about 1/7 of the programming.
200 milllion a year spent on developing pilots.
Deficit Financing - Though networks pay a million or so for each episode of an hour show, it doesn't cover production costs. For even a modest run on network, profits come from syndicating the program for broadcast TV, cable systems and networks, and foreign markets. Popular shows continue to make huge profits for years and years.
Syndication acts in conjunction with and as an alternative to networks bearing the brunt of the costs of developing and producing programming. **Refer to the definition of syndication on p.218.
Off-network vs. First-run Syndication - Off-network programs have been or still are running on network TV. Generally, these are the sitcoms and dramas. First-run refers to programming developed for syndication. Typically, these game shows, talk shows, reality-based shows.
How Syndication Works - Just like software - you don't really buy software or programming, you buy a license to use it. In the case of programming, it's generally for a limited period of time. Whether it's off-network or first-run, the major showing, buying and selling of syndicated programming goes on at the NATPE (National Association of Television Program Executives) Convention. Once the deal is made, programming is delivered via satellite and taped or actual tapes are shipped to the station for a short period, then the station forwards them to the next recipient station or cable system. The programming can be shown at any time, sometimes more than once a day, or in the case of movies, several times in a short period. Often movies are bundled by genre or actor and sold as packages.
Syndication Exclusivity (Syndex) - Remember that in the early 70s cable was undergoing really onerous regulation that was almost designed to regulate it out of business. Part of that was the original syndex rule. Then, during deregulation in the 80s, syndex was dropped. It was reinstated in 1988 when there was no way to see what else to do. Some TV stations pay more money to be the only one in a market to broadcast a popular syndicated program. But local cable operators (in the same market) could offer the same programming, which made the station's deal worthless. Syndex rules vary, but primarily they force the cable operator to delete the programming and replace it with something else.
Fin/Syn Rules - Networks were prevented from owning very many shows for syndication by what were known as financial interest and syndication rules. This was an anti-trust consent decree and FCC decision working in tandem. With the rise of serious competition to the networks, the rules were loosened in 1991 and ended in 1993. That helped pave the way for many of the mergers that have taken place today and created what are called vertically integrated companies.
Prime-Time Access Rule (PTAR) - Before 1971, prime time was from 7:00 to 11:00. Wiith local and national news thrown in, there was little available time for syndicated programming. Soaps were network feeds during the day. In 71, the FCC decreed that 7:00 to 8:00 was access time and network programming could not be shown. That opened the door for a lot of successful syndicated programming. The PTAR was dropped in 1996 because it didn't really matter anymore, but the local stations will not be giving up access time to the networks.
Barter Syndication - One way to pay for programming. Straight barter:
syndicator gets all the commercial time for national clients - local station gets free programming but no way to make money on it. Partial barter meant the station got to keep a few minutes to sell for themselves. Now more common is cash-barter where the station gives up money as well as commercial time.
Entertainment vs. Information - If you believe Will Shakespeare, all the world's a stage and thus everything is entertainment. But there are some legitimate information sources, classified as news and public affairs. In between entertainment and information, supposedly, are reality-based shows (infotainmet) and infomercials. Of course, these appeal to our most base tendencies and are losing the popularity they once had.
Dayparts. Formats. and Genres - Even programming of the same type takes on a different flavor based on its daypart. **See the diagram on p.223** The 24 hour period is broken into 12 parts. For radio, it's five parts.
Format generally refers to a program in broadcast TV and to an entire station's programming in radio. However, cable networks have also come to be known as formatted services.
Program genres denote a type of content for a show. Typical are sitcoms, soap operas, game shows, dramas, dramedys, docudrama.
Entertainment Program Sources
**Relate to some the huge entertainment mergers that have been taking place. **
Maior Studios - Paramount, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, etc. They provide theatrical films, made-for-TV movies, and produce series for TV. Studios make much more money on broadcast, cable, videocassette, and foreign distribution than on theatrical release. Popular programming and fills up large blocks of time.
Independent Producers - Come in all shapes and sizes. Some are huge and extremely successful. These include, MTM, Aaron Spelling, Norman Lear, Steven Cannell, Steven Bochco, and a number of others.
Made-for-cable Programming - Throughout the 90s, many cable networks have been increasing the amount of programming they finance and produce. Disney produces more than half of its programming. HBO wins awards pretty routinely now for its specials, movies, and series. Some, such as Lifetime, continue critically acclaimed network programming after it leaves the air. Some, like A&E, have discovered cash cows like their Biography series. All this shows that there is an active, creative role for cable in TV programming.
News Agencies - are the newsies' form of syndicated programming. May include cable services such as ESPN, CNBC, CNN, etc, but the major news agencies are the Associated Press, Reuters, Worldwide Television News. They provide all types of content for news and information programs.
Network News - Network news divisions are very large organizations, but not as large as they used to be. In recent years they have cut back in many areas and have pooled their resources rather relying solely on themselves for all their own programming and news sources. They have a rather limited outlet on the networks but very high visibility, and the networks put a large stock in their news reputations.
Local News - Local stations also put great stock in their news and it represents the majority of local programming efforts. Besides the local news gathering efforts, they can get programming from a number of the same sources that the networks do and from the networks' competitors, primarily CNN. They can also get programming directly from the networks via feeds that take place when the network is not sending regularly scheduled programming.
Sports Program Sources
Networks - Except for big events such as the World Series, the Super Bowl, the Olympics, etc., and regular season football, the networks contract with independent sports production companies to produce sports programming. Local stations may do their own productions and may contract with independent producers as well. Some producers make deals with universities and collegiate conferences. The same is true of cable networks, but ESPN produces almost all of its own programming
Sports Sponsorship - means an advertiser obtains the rights to a sporting event and take care of all the expenses and arrangements for production, staffing and promotion. They, of course, get the right of sole sponsorship, or they can make a little money back by selling commercial time to other companies (not their business rivals).
Network Scheduling Strategies
**Part of the trick of effective scheduling is suiting the programming to the audience's activities.**
Audience Flow - To win in programming you want to attract the other guy's viewers and keep him from taking your viewers. The key to this is controlling audience flow, and that means keeping your viewers with you between programs. For radio stations, it's between every block of songs. Flowthrough is keeping your viewers and inflow and outflow are just the opposite of what you want with your sewer lines: you want inflow but no outflow. But controlling audience flow is difficult with remote controls and VCRs in widespread use.
Specific strategies - **See the list of strategies on p.231 ~ These strategies are always being evaluated and changed based on the opponents perceived weaknesses and strengths. That's why you see line-ups being changed as often as they are. Of course, there's one theory that mindless TV watchers will watch no matter what is on, so you just have to be the least objectionable. On the other hand, there's the view that a good show's viewers will follow it no matter when it's
on. Probably a mix of both there, just like most other things.
Network Prime-Time Arena -The networks duke it out in the prime time arena for ratings and leadership. That's what they are primarily concerned with. That's 22 hours of programming - three hours six nights a week and an extra hour on Sunday. Has to appeal to the broadest audience, so the programming has to be the broadest. Therefore, everything is different every night. That's not true during the day, when most of the network programming is stripped.
Cable Network Strategies – Cable networks relied on building loyal audiences with their best programming during daytime well into the 80s because they didn't feel like they could go head to head with the networks in primetime. They also rely on building loyal audiences through habit – stripping very popular shows every day. Nowadays, they will program against the networks in primetime, sometimes stripping very popular off-network syndication (such as Law and Order on A&E) and increasingly with original programming such as The Sopranos on HBO. Pay cable channels also rely heavily on repetition of programming and on bridging strategies.
Local Scheduling Strategies
TV Stations – Networks fill about 70% of their affiliates' programming time, though that's not the case with WB and UPN, or even Fox. Generally, the most important local programming decisions concern the primetime early fringe and access times. Local stations really battle it out during the local news slots, which are increasing to an hour and a half a night. Independent stations have to be programmed locally for all of their schedules. They rely primarily on counterprogramming against network programming, and can focus heavily on sports, movies, and stripped comedy and drama.
Cable Systems – Primarily, local cable companies major decisions concern which of the multitude of cable channels to carry. Increasingly, however, cable companies are able to offer as many as 150 channels, which makes the decision easier – carry them all. However, economics plays a role – cable companies have to pay a fee for each channel carried, so they have to get enough revenue from their customers to make a profit – but customers will only stand so much, especially now that there is competition from other TV services, and soon there will be over the air HDTV.
Radio Stations – Radio stations use counterprogramming, stripping, and blocking even more than TV stations. Most of the time, they schedule a rotation of program elements throughout an hour. The elements change according to the daypart, which is what really rules radio. (**see exhibit 8.g, page 235). Drivetime advertising is what pays the bills at radio stations. Almost all radio stations compete for relatively small segments of the audience – people who listem to all country, all urban contemporary, all talk, or all sports, etc.
On-Air – On-air promotion of one's own programming is the most cost-efficient way to promote. These include teasers (especially about the news), voiceovers, and fully-produced spots. Promos that concern an entire series of shows are called generic and promos that promote a specific episode of a show are called specific or episodic (duh!)
Other Media – But, you will still hear promos for TV programming on the radio, especially in the afternoon drivetime, and see promos for radio stations on TV, though most radio stations cannot afford to advertise in primetime. Therefore, you will see radio promos in syndicated programming and/or late night programming that appeals to a certain demographic. Additionally, most broadcast outlets have websites and many radio stations promote their e-mail address as a way to contact the station.Many stationss also sponsor special events. Radio stations especially focus on rock concerts.
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