Tag Archives: free to air tv

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.

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Go 99 Preview Update

In yet another example of just how hopeless the Channel 9 programming department when it comes to keeping viewers informed, as of this morning (Thursday April 30), there is no information in the yahoo TV guide online as to any of the planned 9HD day time break away next week. According to the advanced guide for 9HD posted on TV Tonight, extra 9HD beak away day time programming starts from this Sunday May 3.

It is not uncommon for the 9HD channel program guide not to be up to date in yahoo (perhaps this is because yahoo is tied up with channel 7), but you’d think channel 9 might go to a little extra effort to ensure there was adequate advertising and programming information out there in relation to this new programming. Otherwise, noone will know about it and day time viewers will most likely stumble upon the alternative shows when they try to watch Ellen and the View in HD only to see a movie on instead.

A quick check of the TV Guide that 9 MSN links to reveals the same – no alternative 9HD programming during the day. The only place I can find (admitedly I have not looked everywhere, but yahoo and ninemsn are two very high trffic locations so I would have assumed they keep there information up to date) this information in relation to 9HD is in TV Tonights’ advanced guides section – where you can see free to air TV guides as far as two weeks ahead. Usually, there is little point to look that far ahead into what channel 9 plan to show due to frequent programming changes, but this new 9HD programming is a big deal and a big step in the lead up to the new Go 99 channel later this year.

I might add, that I have not seen advertising for the programming either – not on the ninemsn web site or channel 9 itself. Maybe they are keeping it low key for now while they make sure there are no bugs, but surely, for the sake of their advertisers, they would want to attract viewers? Unless the ads will be free or endless 9 self promos (which would make the channel close to unbearable to watch).

At least there will be a day time alternative to talk, soapies, cooking and kids shows for now. If only they started the break away at 9am to provide an alternative to the morning shows. We don’t really need Kerry Ann and the mindless infomercials and content in HD – do we? 9am – 11 am are the worst 2 hours on commercial free to air TV, other than 2-4am of course. Before we had Foxtel, we would not even turn the TV on at our house until 11am for the news.

ONE HD on SC10

Southern Cross Tens’ (SC10) scenery HD channel is now displaying a message bar stating: “We are excited to announce that the 24 hours sports service ONE HD will be broadcast on this channel in coming months”. No indication of a date.

Coming months puts the launch of ONE HD on SC10 in line with what we hope to be a July start. Hopefully soon they will be able to tell us the date, and then to promote accordingly so that regional viewers can finally join their capital city counterparts in having the option to view the 24 hour sports channel.

At least there will be a free to air option in the early morning hours that is not informercials or movies older than your grand mother.

FreeView in My View 3

So there will be no FreeView EPG until the end of the year. Channel 9’s new channel will launch some time in August. ONE HD is already here for anyone who lives in the 5 capital cities. FreeView branded equipment will be on sale from May 1. And FreeView will launch more ads from April 26.

Exactly what do they hope to achieve with these ads? More confusion? More empty promises? Brand awareness? Confusing the already confused?

In my opinion, what really needs to happen is to have everything sorted out before they wast anymore time advertising and further confuse TV viewers Australia wide. Given that the EPG will not launch until the end of the year, how will the product work in any case? And there is still the cloud over the ad skipping capability on the FreeView branded PVR. I can understand why they would not want viewers to skip ads completely, so why not base the system on Foxtels’ IQ2 where you fast forward ads? If you see an ad that is interesting, you stop and take a look. Making people sit through ads when they are not watching live TV just won’t work. And being called FreeView will mean nothing.

Since the FreeView name was introduced late last year, saying “coming soon in 2009”, there has been little or no development to the system leading many to write it off as a pointless waste of time. This is now the stigma they are stuck with and will be very hard for them to work their way out of it. FreeView is seen as misleading and a series of empty promises. As I have written in other posts here, we will not see 15 unique Free to air channels any time soon.

Here’s what should happen now, in my opinion, if FreeView is going to revive itself:

1. Do not advertise at all until everything is in place for the product.

2. Set deadlines with manufacturers for FreeView branded equipment, and get them into the market place by a certain date.

3. Educate retailers about the system.

4. Deadline when the extra channels come. Ten has ONE HD already. 9’s 2nd channel is due in August, 7 is yet to announce, but should ideally do it about the same time as 9.

5. Get the EPG up in line with extra channels.

6. Include community TV (where available), and maybe even some of the channels in the 44 group in Sydney extending to other cities and areas – that gets more channels (Available frequencies may be an issue though).

7. Make sure that the regionals are on at the same time – unlike what happened with ONE HD, still yet to appear on SC10.

8. Publicise these dates in the media and on their web site. Keep the public informed. back up promises with actual content and detail. So far, one of the biggest problems with FreeView has been the lack of any actual content to back up their promises.

9. Any additonal services that will come with FreeView – such as on demand services – should be confirmed with launch dates as well during this time.

Once everything is in place, then will be the time to release FreeView as a complete system with 10 (say) channels including all other features it will have working rather than “coming soon”. That way, the consumer will know they are getting a complete product and not some expensive box with little or nothing over what they have now or can obtain much more cheaply.

Non Ratings – No Point

If you have seen the ratings reports for this week, you would notice there are alot of people watching TV at the moment having to settle for lower quality viewing, endless repeats and movies being played for there umpteenth time. The fact that a repeat episode of NCIS on Ten can grab 1.5 mil is testimony to how many viewers there are out there basically settling on what ever is on the small screen, even if a repeat. NCIS is very popular, new episodes do very well. Repeats of the show do better than repeats of Underbelly.

I still don’t get why we need to have so called non-ratings periods. There is still a daily report as to what everyone with people meters were watching, numbers are still counted, ads are still sold based on these numbers, only the viewer loses out by having second rate programming. I see no reason why ratings cannot continue all the time. Over summer and Easter.

The only beneficiaries out of this non-ratings madness is subscription TV and DVD rentals. And, of course, downloads as well. This week is not even school holidays (in NSW). 7 news on Monday night got 1.7 mil! Yet after 8.30, no one show could do better than about a million. All these people go somewhere, don’t they? And they are not going out – noone has the money for that now.

All that non-ratings is doing is turning people away from free to air TV and towards subscription TV, legal and illegal downloads and back to either hiring DVDs or watching ones they already own. At our place, free to air viewing has reduced to almost nothing other than the news and a few shows that have not gone off or into repeats such as Life on Mars and 60 minutes. Our usual Foxtel shows are still on, so those programs still fill up some time, but the gap left by absent free to air programs is filled by watching DVDs. I am sure this is a familiar scenario to some people.

 I seriously believe that this is a concept that needs to be reviewed, especially as more and more people turn away from free to air TV. With very fast internet coming within the next 10 years, free to air TV needs to re-invent iteself to continue to exist. Providing poor quality viewing, chopping and changing shows, having periods of time that they air even worse shows, and taking too long to get new shows on will kill them. No amount of extra channels under any name whether it be FreeView or otherwsie will help. Internet will be the future, and good on our government for moving on it.

Late Night Informercials – Why?

You’ve got to feel sorry for those who do not have Foxtel and are up very late stuck with free to air TV only. Apart from the ABC, no free to air network offers continuous programming throughout the grave yard shift from Midnight to dawn.

Ch 7 have recently added an extra hour to their over night infomercials, running from 1am to 4am. And on Prime, its even worse – they get informercials right through to 5.30am. Strangely, 7HD on weeknights finish at 2am or so before reverting back to normal 7 programming. 9 and NBN has 2 hours of infomercials from 2-4am, and over at Ten, its 2 hours from the ridiculously early 12.30 through to 2.30am. SC10 has 4 hours. Sobetween 7, 9 and 10 there is half an hour when all you can see is informercials. On top of that, the regionals have extra infomercials during the day. One example is 11am on NBN. They don’t show the 11am news that is on 9 instead having infomercials for half an hour.

So why is this the case? There was a time when there used to be programming overnight. You could see old episodes of Prisoner on ch 10 in the early 90’s at 3 or 4am. Ch 7 used to have News Overnight – a collection of (mostly) NBC news shows from the US. Ch 9 used to play old movies. Going back further, 10 used to have music videos over night.

Obviously the networks are paid to show these infomercials, but in my opinion, I can’t imagine anyone would be actually watching them – so therefore why would an advertiser bother? It would be better if the networks showed actual progammes at those hours as they’d be able to sell the advertising space to regular advertisers or just have the two minute infomercial style ads in the breaks like they have on some of the Foxtel channels and daytime TV.

Of course, this advertising space would be quite cheap, but that’s not a bad thing – it would give companies who usually cannot afford to advertise on TV the chance to advertise cheaply. And if paying staff to work that late is an issue, then pre-record the night time programming during the day. That way, there is no need for any additional staff overnight. Why not replay prime time? 2 or 3 hours of shows from 7.30 onwards repeated overnight. All that would need to be done would be to change the ads, which, if they were pre-recording, they could insert the different ads into the recording. Apart from providing something for people to watch, this would give viewers the chance to watch a show they may have missed earlier.

And in two weeks time, we will have the option of watching sports free to air on ONE HD. According to their program, sport continues overnight, uninterupted. Perhaps 10 could broadcast ONE on its main channel instead of informercials overnight. And as for SC10, well they have not yet informed anyone as to when they will offer ONE HD. See my previous post about that one.