Tag Archives: SBS

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.

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!