Tag Archives: ABC

Scheduling Frustrations

It’s great to see that channel 9 is now offering late night news at 11.30pm. For many of us, that is a better time to catch up on the news than 10.30 is on channel 10. Last night, I flicked over to 9 to watch the news at 11.30, only to find I had missed the start of it and therefore the first of the main stories which are usually the most important.

This is an ongoing problem for both channel 7 and 9 where programs after 11pm start early, while programs after 7pm start late. If you want to see all of the news on 9 scheduled for 11.30pm, I suggest you tune over at around 11.20 to make sure you don’t miss any. If you plan to record it to watch later in the night, then be sure to set your recorder to take into account those extra minutes before.

Channel 7 has been doing this with 30 Rock for months, which has started as early as 11.20 while still showing on both printed guides and EPGs as 11.30. On the flip side of the equation, channel 9 on Monday night, the last episode of Underbelly did not start until 8.39 and Eleventh Hour that followed Underbelly did not start until 9.45 – it was shown on the schedule as 9.30. That’s 15 minutes late. On that particular night, it was mae worse by having 3 minute HomeMade “Sneak Peaks” both before and after Underbelly, not to mention countless pop-up ads as well as extra ads during the ad breaks.

Last night, whilst working late, I left on 7HD in the background. At 12.53am, I heard the start of Deal or No Deal. After checking the 7HD TV guide on yahoo, I saw that Deal is scheduled to start at 1am. And, the show after it on 7HD – A Country Practice (and being on HD, you can see the rather low quality of the 80′s video compared to now) started at 1.17am – 13 minutes ealier than the program guide and EPG suggests.

The networks have to realise that an EPG is as good as useless if their programs do not match the time on the EPG. Most viewers rely on EPG times to either remind them of when a show starts or to record it to watch later. At least channel 10 keep their EPG times up to date most of the time. What is the problem with ch 7 and 9 – why can’t they keep their EPGs up to date? Surely the one that does stands to benefit the most from viewer satisfaction.

Both ch 7 and 9 need to be called to account for this archaic practise of running programs late or early. It is nothing more than blatant disrespect for their viewers, and such a strategy would only work if viewers watched the same channel all night. They don’t. They all have remotes. They all change channels many times during the night, and they all get frustrated at shows starting late or starting early.

Having said all that, here is my guide of what time you can expect a show to really start based on its advertised time.

Scheduled Time channel 7 channel 9 channel 10
5.00pm 4.57pm 4.57pm 5.00pm
5.30pm 5.27pm 5.27pm n/a
6.00pm 6.00pm 6.00pm 6.01pm
6.30pm 6.30pm 6.30pm 6.30pm
7.00pm 7.05pm 7.05pm 7.00pm
7.30pm 7.35pm 7.35pm 7.32pm
8.00pm 8.05pm 8.06pm 8.02pm
8.30pm 8.35pm 8.37pm 8.33pm
9.30pm 9.34pm 9.38pm 9.32pm
10.30pm 10.31pm 10.33pm 10.31pm
11.30pm 11.25pm 11.25pm n/a
12.00am 11.55pm 11.57pm 12.02am
12.30am 12.25am 12.25am  
1.00am 12.53am 12.55am  
1.30am 1.18am    

A bit of fine print:

These times are based on my own TV watching experience based mostly on
Monday to Thursday nights, although I have noticed late schedules
running on weekends as well, but not as bad as the weekdays. Times are
a rough average, off the top of my head. I have not sat down and
recorded all scheduled times for example, but have commented about many
of them on TV forums like
www.tvtonight.com.au or www.throng.com.au. Obviously these times
may vary from night to night, but for the uninitiated, can act as a
simple guide. Examples considered here include: ch 9 Mondays with
Underbelly and the show after it as much as 15 minutes late, The
Mentalist on Wednesday nights usually 7 or 8 mins late, Ellen at
11.30pm and now 12am starting early, 11.30 news starting at 11.25, 30
Rock on 7 starting as early as 11.20pm, Deal on 7HD starting at 12.53am
instead of 1am, Heroes from 10.30 – 11.25, always missing the start of
Beauty and the Geek which was on 11.30 Thursdays, and seeing it finish
around 12.20, missing the first stories on 11.30 news on 9, missing the
start of Hot Seat on 1st night and subsequent nights, seeing Antiques
and Mash start 4.57 after 4.30 news finishes, Life on Mars on 10
starting at 9.33 Thurs (now 10.30 Fri) on the dot according to the EPG,
Masterchef starting exactly on time in accordnace to the EPG, same with
Talkin’ Bout my Generation, Rove despite being after reality shows
normally starting as per EPG at say 9.06pm (although printed as a 9pm
start), not above here due to odd time, but Letterman on 10 at 11.15pm
is always on time as well, as is the show following. Yet 7 and 9 are
running early by 5 or more minutes. Obviously it has to do with the
lower volume of ads after 10.30, but the networks would know that
already and their guides should reflect it. Running late from 7 to
10.30pm though is a deliberate action as both A Current Affair and
Today Tonight finish 5 minutes late. Additional lateness, especially by
channel 9, can be attributed to extra self promotion ads thoughout the
night, especially when they through in sneak peaks like they currently
are for HomeMade.

Note that in the case of ch 10, their EPG times actually reflect the times above whereas ch 7 and ch9′s do not and only show 8.30, 9.30, etc.

I have not included ABC, SBS or Foxtel here as they usually run on time with up to date EPGs and therefore saw no point to include them on the table.

FreeView in my View 4

So here comes the next round of Free View ads which will supposedly remind us of what we love about free to air TV. The same day we hear about channel 9′s new Tuesday night line up containing nothing but 2.5 Men, 20-1 and Underbelly, most of which are repeats. These Free view ads are a waste of time and no doubt take air space away from real advertisers selling real products.

Freeview are so delusional, that they call 7HD and 9HD separate channels. 9HD hardly has any break away programming and for the most part is the same as the main channel – so should not count, and 7HD is almost as bad but at least has more break away times.

And now the comment relating to more channels launching says within a year. We know channel 9 have announced their new channel, Ten is already doing ONE, SBS News has become SBS2, ABC has been given the go ahead for ABC3 (I knew thewy would) but channel 7 is still yet to announce anything.

Currently, I put the channel count at 8 – ABC, ABC2, Ten, One, 7, 9, SBS, SBS2. In regional area of northern NSW, it is 7 channels as there is no ONE yet. It will hopefully be on SC10 by July, about the same time it is rumoured Foxtel will get it for those who do not have cable. Go 99 and ABC3 will take it to 10 channels, and 7′s new channel when they announce it will be the 11th. And that will most likely be it, as I don’t see any of them then using the HD channel as a break away from the other 2 channels.

Millionaire Vs Deal

So ch 9 have decided to put the latest incarnation of Who Wants to be a Millionaire against ch 7′s Deal or no Deal at 5.30pm Mon-Fri from April 20.

While I am happy to see the end of at least half an hour of Antiques Roadshow – a show that does not even appeal to my 70+ year old parents – I don’t think Millionaire will work at 5.30pm. Deal has been around for so long, and grown such a huge audience, that 9 really don’t ever have a hope going against it with a game show. Something like Extra, currently only seen in Brisbane, would do better at 5.30. Keep it different. There are not that many viewers around at 5.30 compared to 7, and my guess would be, that they would get much better advertising revenue at 7 than they do at 5.30.

I cannot understand why ch 9 would bother “copying” 7 by putting game show against game show. Why not go for something different? Why not put on Millionaire at 7pm where ch 9 are now coming 4th in the ratings on a daily basis? Maybe, its because some of the regionals have ACA on at 7. Usually, though, the regionals would put on the 7pm show at 5.30. The regionalsdon’t bother with 2.5 Men as they no doubt see no point. Even the regionals, like NBN, have an hour of Antiques Roadshow from 5-6.

History has proven that putting a game show against another game show does not work. The well established show will win. In this case, that is Deal. I would be very surprised, if after the first episode or 2, if Millionaire makes much of a dent on Deal. Then ch 9 will swing their well worn axe. And another game show dies from not being put at a suitable time or given a decent chance.

The other reason why it will fail at 5.30 is that the format is quite heavy for 5.30. What I mean here, is that, a question and answer show is better later when people are more relaxed, not at 5.30 when they are just getting home, just putting on dinner or generally only have TV on in the background. At 7, its more likely to be watched. With Deal, its very light. Pick a case, guess what is in it, bank makes an offer, contestant accepts or rejects. Repeat the process a few times until there’s a smaller number of cases left when it gets more exciting. For me, that’s about the time I tune in – the last ten to fifteen minutes. I switch over when 10 news goes to sport.

If Millionaire does fail at 5.30, I hope they will have the sense to try it at 7pm. With the new Home Made show now slated to be 2 one hour episodes a week, and the promised magazine style show possibly being incorporated as part of a new one hour 4.30 news format, that still leaves 7pm on ch 9 unanswered.

Sure – 2.5 Men used to rate well, and if you consider 1 million good ratings at 7pm, then it is doing OK for 9. But surely it must be recognised that the only reason it is actually doing well is due to a lack of options. Look at the choices at 7 – 2.5 Men, Home and Away, Biggest Loser and ABC news. 9 is now regulary coming 4th at 7pm. In regional markets, where ACA is on at 7pm, this is not the case. I believe, that if every one had access to ONE HD, that Sports Tonight would rate better than that. Considering that 7 news at 6 scores 1.5 million, there is no reason why a decent show at 7pm cannot do the same.

Channel 9 really need to start thinking outside the square here. Sure – ch 7 got to where they are by copying ch 9 intially – and doing a good job of it at the time - but 9 cannot expect to claw their way back by copying 7. Eddy is not going to do it for them at 5.30.

We need more game shows on TV, but don’t put them against each other.

ONE HD on SC10 Soon

Although I am yet to see one myself, I have been told by a few people now that SC10 Newcastle are advertising that ONE HD is coming soon to SC10. I am happy to hear that, as that would put some confusion to rest, but still don’t know why they would not have done that earlier.

It is interesting to read about the trouble some people on Newcastle are going to to get ONE HD. I found a forum with a number of posts from people in various parts of Newcastle who are already watching ONE HD or are trying to get it. From Newcastle, they have the choice to either trying to receive their TV direct from Sydney or to pick up UHF re-transmissions of Sydney TV from the Central Coast. You can read one of the forums here.

Depending on weather conditions, sometimes you can receive distant TV stations, but not on a full time basis. I remember, back in the early-mid 80′s, when I lived in Sydney, we would regularly receive WIN-4 from Wollongong as well as NBN-3 from Newcastle on a fine summer afternoon. The phenomenon is known in ametuer radio circles as “skip” where a signal from a distant transmitter literally “skips” or bounces off the ionosphere (an atmospheric layer) allowing it to travel further as the signal generally can travel in without much loss. The signal received would sometimes flow in and out – changing in strength – but was definitely watchable.

There was one day in particular where all 12 analogue channels were filled (except for ch 5, as this frequency is also used for FM radio). At the time, we had SBS on ch 0. A regional ABC filled ch 1. 2 was ABC-Sydney. 3 was NBN Newcastle. 4 was WIN-Wollongong, 5A was ABC probably from Newcastle, 6 was from Orange I think, 7 Sydney, 8 was NEN from memory from Taree, 9 and 10 Sydney, and 11 NRN-Coffs Harbour. On that day, I was able to watch Neighbours (yes, I watched it back then) at 5.30 on NRN rather than waiting to see it at 7pm on 10 (in 1988, Neighbours was on at 7pm).

Now, in the digital age, you could not have this happen in Sydney anymore as channels 6,8 and 11 are used as the digital components for channels 7,9 and 10 respectively. However, out in the country, the reverse could be true. You may be able to receive Sydney TV when atmospheric conditions are right and “skip” happens on a fine Summers’ afternoon. Which means, you may be able to catch glimpses of ONE HD outside of the city.

You would to make sure you have a VHF TV aerial, and have to re-tune your digital receiver when the conditions are right. If you are lucky, you’ll get the Sydney (or other capital city channels) but only briefly. Obviously you could not rely on this happening regularly. Also, fluctuating signal strength may mean that digital signal will drop out from time to time.

Enough reminiscing of the days of being able to flick through TV channels to see what was there. With most of them on UHF now in any case, chances of seeing distant channels are much lower. Furthermore, with the regionals being much the same as the city channels (other than digital channels and break away programming) there is little point going to any effort in any case.

I had read, that one possible reason why ONE HD is not on SC10 yet is because they are putting together a new digital facility in Canberra, and it is not until the middle of the year they will have the facility fully functional. With 10 HD breakaway programming running since late 2007, they have had plenty of time to prepare for the expansion of multichanneling. Apparently, this new facility will pretty much control all of SC10′s coverage area including dealing with insertion of local ads to feed to numerous different areas.

There is also a rumour, that I cannot seem to be able to confirm anywhere, that ONE HD and/or ONE SD will be broadcast through Foxtel from July. Sounds like, in the middle of this year, there will be alot of action as far as multi channeling is concerned.

Who Will Be the First with Three Channels?

FreeView promises 15 channels based on each free to air broadcaster being allowed to air 2 standard definition (SD)  channels and 1 high definition (HD) channel. As it stands now, ABC has two unique SD channels – ABC1 and ABC2, with ABC HD yet to offer anything but a simulcast of ABC1. Same story with SBS, with SBS1 and SBS2 (this is what SBS news will become). Over at ch10, they now have Ten and ONE HD, with the 2nd SD channel airing the SD simulcast of ONE HD. That make ch10 the first commercial to offer a 2nd SD channel as well as the HD channel being different 24 hours a day. But, in all of these cases, its still only 2 channels.

So who will be the first to have a 3rd? Ch 9 has indicated that August is a likely date for the launch of their 2nd SD channel (which will not be called 9 GOLD!). When this channel starts, if 9 offered alternative HD programming at any time, and the 2 SD channels were also airing different programs, then that would put 9 as the first to offer 3 different programs at any given time. I personally do not see this happening. It is more likely that the HD breakaway programs would end up on 9SD2 (in the absence of a real name, I’ll keep on calling it 9SD2), and that 9HD would simulcast 9′s main channel especially as more and more of their prime time programs become available in HD.

Ten has made mention of a 3rd channel as well, but I suggest the outcome there would be subject to the success of ONE HD. If the sports genre is very successful for 10, you may see the channel currently known as OND SD broadcast a combination of sports and other shows. Some people think that 10 may opt for a music channel or something more youth oriented to capture a different part of the market. Whether ONE stays as a full time HD channel will depend on its ratings and HD TV penetration into the market.

Despite David Leckie of ch 7 over a year ago indicating that maulti channeling would be exciting, has yet to announce what ch 7 are doing as far as multi channeling is concerned. Ch 7 has offered more break away HD programming than any other channel (prior to ONE HD) but have (surprisingly) used it to show repeats of their own shows, whether in HD or not, and to show old black and white movies during the day not even in wide screen, let alone HD!

Only the ABC has real plans for a 3rd channel – ABC3 which is subject to funding at the next federal budget. There is also rumoured to be an ABC4 news channel on the cards, but unless they cut back the qulaity of the HD channel, it is difficult to see how 4 channels will fit in without being very low quality. I am of the understandting that they can, but quality is the concern.

I believe the focus should be on quality and not the number of channels. While the idea of having extra channels is great for variety and choice, it should not be what its all about. Now that everyone is buying large screen TVs, the HD channel should be the focus as the main channel. This is what they do in the US, and they promote all the shows as being in HD. Any show on the main channel that is available in HD, should be shown in HD on the HD channel. And when there are shows on the main channel not available in HD (like old repeats), only then should the HD channel do anything different to the main channel as well as the 2nd SD channel.

Alternative HD viewing should only occur if the programs on the main channel are not available in HD. Alternative HD viewing should be HD content. Not 1940′s movies or old repeats. Recent movies and documentaries are one idea. I have an HD TV and would much prefer having everything in HD than to have 3 different channels just for the sake of being able to say there are 3 channels. Already when I watch ch 10, I miss having the option of viewing in HD. And, yes, I can tell the difference on my TV! I used to hate some late night shows on 7 not being in HD due to 7HD being the breakaway channel. One example is 30 Rock – which doesn’t really have to be HD, but in HD it looks much better.

Which gets me back to FreeView. As I mentioned time and time again, the promotion of 15 channels is misleading. You can read more about that in other posts or by clicking FreeView in the tag cloud.

Freeview in my View

So Freeview promises to deliver 15 channels virtually for free, or at least without a subscription. Freeview will be offering a hard disk recorder allowing you to record 2 HD channels at once and watch another. But, according to the news so far I have read about FreeView, you will not be able to skip the ads! Honestly, what is the point of a hard disk recorder (PVR) if you cannot skip ads on commercial network shows? Since the early 80′s, if I have watched a show recorded from commercial TV, I fast forward the ads. If the FreeView box does not allow fast forwarding the ads, then who’s going to want it? This is one point that needs clarification. So far, FreeView is nothing more than an ad on TV, a fancy website that tells you little and a hot topic on TV blogs everywhere.

Its easy to see where the figure of 15 channels comes from – each of the 5 free to air networks now have the license to broadcast 1 HD channel and 2 SD channels, all 3 of which can have unique programming. 3 x 5 = 15 – easy! In fact, currently, each free to air broadcaster can actually broadcast up to 4 SD channels and 1 HD channel. Ch 7, Prime, ABC and SBS already do that, its just that all the additional channels are simulcasts, and licensing only allows 1 HD and 2 SD channels. 9 and 10 broadcast 1 HD and 2 SD channels – again – most the time they are simulcasts. And when analogue switches off completely in 2013, the extra bandwidth available means they should be able to offer even more channels or at least be able to offer say 3 HD channels. Time will tell on that one.

But the reality is somewhat different. To any normal person, the interpretation of 15 channels means 15 unique channels each containing different content for most of the day. It makes one believe that on each free to air network there will be an HD channel, and 2 SD channels broadcasting different content some time in 2009 when FreeView takes off.

Apart from the ABC which has plans for ABC3 (if funding is approved), it is extremely unlikely we’ll see any network provide 3 unique channels at once in the near future. Why would they? During the nightly prime time ratings dog fight, most shows are able to be seen in HD – as they should be for those of us with HD TVs. And for those who do not have access to HD, the same show has to be shown on an SD channel. And for those not yet on digital, it also has to appear on analogue. That leaves only the 2nd SD channel left to offer alternative programming. Then it is likely that the 2nd SD alternative would be programmed in such a way not to detract from the main programme being screened – by showing repeats or niche programming. Therefore, the result would be only 2 shows on at once on any free to air network.

We can already see an example of this: Ch 10, ONE HD and ONE SD. Even the FreeView web site lists ONE and ONE HD as separate channels. As ONE SD is nothing more than the SD simulcast of ONE HD, it cannot count as a separate channel. The reason is obvious – if you have an HD TV, you’d be watching ONE HD and never ONE SD. If you do not have an HD TV, you’d be watching ONE SD and cannot get ONE HD. ONE channel broadcasted over 2. This limits channel 10 to 2 channels, not 3. So straight away, the 15 channels FreeView promises begins to fall apart.

And then there’s the question of what 7 and 9 will do.Yes, at some stage, they’ll launch their 2nd SD channel, but the HD channel will still show prime time in HD and may possibly offer further unique programming late night as they already do. It would not surprise me, though, if alternative HD viewing disappears altogether, with the shows that used to be there seen on 2nd SD channel, and maybe some of those shown on HD at the same time – resulting in an HD channel showing content form both the main channel and the 2nd SD channel from time to time.

 Therefore the number of unique channels would work out as:

Ch 10 and ONE HD / ONE SD simulcast – 2 channels

Ch 9 SD and 9 SD2 with HD simulcasting 9 SD most of the time – 2 channels

Ch 7 SD and 7 SD2 with HD simulcasting 7 SD most of the time – 2 channels

ABC1, ABC2, ABC3 (let’s assume it goes ahead) – 3 channels (assuming ABC HD is ABC1 simulcast in HD)

SBS and SBS news (assuming SBS HD remains simulcast of SBS) – 2 channels

Total: 11 channels. Not 15.

In my opinion, this is extremely misleading and the claim of 15 channels should be reworded. I note now on the FreeView web site it says “up to 15 channels”. To me, the whole FreeView campaign is pointless and a waste of money – and why have it as a brand and a separate PVR? While I am a great advocate of extra channels, I don’t think it should the main priority. In the US, the focus is on HD content as opposed to extra channels each free to air network offers. All the major shows in the US are HD, and the daily and nightly talk shows make a big deal about being in HD. Here, there’s little emphasis on HD at all. While multi-channeling and FreeView seems to work well in the UK, lets keep in mind over there the population is 4 times larger than Australia, in a space smaller than one of our states – so its alot more viable.

I think the focus over the next few years should be digital take up overall without fancy brands and campaigns like FreeView. We should be making sure that all households have digital TV prior to the switch off in 2013 and legislating that all TVs must be sold with a digital tuner – like they have been doing in the US prior to their switch off in June. Until we are forced to buy only digital TVs there will never be adequate digital TV take up in Australia to warrant the networks bothering with alternative viewing knowing full well such viewing cannot be seen by all viewers. Then again, if consumers knew there was additional free content on digital television, they might switch  over. Bit of a catch 22.

Again, the lack of information offered about multi-channeling from the networks (other than 10) can only draw one to the conclusions above. We don’t know when 7 and 9 will start their 2nd SD channel and we don’t know if they will offer alternative HD viewing on top of that. Until some facts come out, the 15 channels of FreeView is really only 10 or 11.

And you can get these channels on ANY digital HD TV regardless of brand. Any set top box that can decode a HD channel will receive ALL digital channels. You do not need FreeView for this, regardless of what they say. FreeView is nothing more than a hard disk recorder with a twin HD tuner, like Tivo and many others you can buy off the shelf. Only difference would be how they interact with electronic program guides. Another subject for another time!