Australia’s commercial television networks are spending little on Australian adult and children’s drama and documentary programs required by regulation, say Australia’s actors, writers, directors, and producers, despite claims this week by the networks. Continue reading »
Free to Air TV
Just when you thought it was safe to watch free to air TV live without being bombarded with ads reminding you of what free to air TV is and why you should keep on watching it, FreeView are about to hit us with a new campaign spruiking “the best things in life are free” – or – in other words, the best TV you can watch is free.
License fee rebates have been extended by the federal government for the free-to-air networks until March 2012.
The networks were originally granted a 33% rebate in 2010 before this was upped to 50% this year.
Communications minister Stephen Conroy agreed that the license fee rebate of 50% should be extended to at least March next year while the “media convergence” review his department is conducting is complete.
The extension is projected to garner over $100m in revenue for the networks.
The Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, today announced that an interim anti-siphoning list has been made to ensure the continued operation of the anti-siphoning scheme.
The existing anti-siphoning list was due to expire on 31 December this year and without a new list there would be no ongoing protection of sport on free-to-air television.
“The making of the interim list forms part of the Government’s broad agenda to strengthen and modernise the anti-siphoning scheme”, Senator Conroy said.
“I announced the details of these reforms on 25 November and the making of this list will ensure continuity of the scheme until such time as these broad reforms are fully implemented.”
The new list has been revised to ensure it remains relevant to Australian audiences and to reflect the commercial realities of the sporting and broadcasting sectors.
The list reflects the popularity of certain sports, with some Twenty20 cricket matches and FIFA World Cup qualifying matches involving Australia added.
The new list does not include previously listed events that have traditionally received little or no free-to-air television coverage, such as the British Open golf and French Open tennis tournaments.
In other aspects, the new list specifies the same events as the previous list.
The Government continues to work with stakeholders in finalising elements of the reform model that will maintain the quality of sports on free-to-air television.
The Government will put in place a mechanism to protect the quality of AFL games on free-to-air television.
This mechanism will ensure, as is the case now, that Friday and Saturday night games are able to be purchased by free-to-air, and that these feature the two best games of each round, as selected by the AFL. It will also ensure that South Australian and Western Australian viewers will be able to watch matches involving teams from their respective home states each week on free-to-air, and that Anzac Day and Queen’s Birthday games are also available on free-to-air.
The Government will achieve this by regulation or an alternative arrangement agreed with stakeholders.
The Government expects to negotiate a similar quality-assurance mechanism for weekly NRL games with Australian Rugby League’s newly-formed Independent Commission.
Until these quality guarantees are agreed, all games of AFL and NRL will remain listed events, preventing their acquisition by a Pay TV licence holder until free-to-air broadcasters have a right to televise those events.
In early 2011, details on these quality guarantees for free-to-air coverage of AFL and NRL matches will be announced and legislation to amend the anti-siphoning scheme will be introduced into the Parliament.
Passage of the legislation will enable the Government to make a new, two-tier anti-siphoning list that will work in conjunction with the new scheme to enhance television coverage of key sporting events in Australia.
There has got to be some rule about last minute programming changes.
When I say last minute, I mean those that affect programming within a few days or even up to a week from the day the programming change or amendment is issued.
Three recent examples of last minute programming changes come to mind that emphasise why there needs to be a rule in place to govern them.
1. Last week. GO decides to completely change their Thursday night line up. They do so on the Wednesday. The new changes mean that two episodes of Big Bang Theory air from 7.30 and a movie from 8.30. Programming replaced includes a repeats of Wipeout USA and Seinfeld, as well as first run Nikita at 9.30. At the same time, GO changes Friday night to include four episodes of The Big Bang Theory. No reason for the changes, other than to use Big Bang to help lift ratings for GO. EPGs were updated in time.
2. Last Friday, around 3pm. Seven issues an amendment that sees new travel show High Road, Low Road replaced with episode of Medical Emergency. The change takes effect immediately, meaning that High Road, Low Road for the following Saturday Dec 4, 7pm, was not to air. The EPGs for Seven Sydney and Prime Newcastle were updated, but the EPG that Foxtel had for Seven was not. Confusion reigns amongst viewers as to what will be on Seven at 7pm that night.
3. Today. Cricket finishes early. So Nine restores normal programming. Fair enough – there should always be back up programming when live sport like cricket cannot be shown. BUT – the normal programming also included the next episode of Days of Our Lives. The next episode was not due to air until the next day – tomorrow. Fans of the show (and fans of Days can be fanatical!) would not possibly have known that the episode would have been on today unless they were already watching the cricket on Nine and saw that it finished early.
Many fans of Days of Our Lives who may record it while they are at work will be surprised to see, that when they watch the episode tomorrow, they will have completely missed one – because they would NOT HAVE KNOWN one was aired instead of the cricket. How possibly would they be able to find out?
At least fans of The View and Ellen get them on GEM (or Pay TV) – but putting an episode of a serial soapie on without fans knowing is crazy. Surely Nine could have put something else at 2pm? It’s just for one day. Maybe a fan of the show can tell us what they think of Nine airing the next episode rather than waiting for when it was scheduled.
In all of these example, users of printed TV guides would have been left in the dark completely.
So here are some rules I have though of that should govern last minute programming changes.
No programming changes should ever be made for less than 7 days in advance without good reason. Allowable reasons for last minute programming changes include:
1. Live sport finishes late. All subsequent programming should then play as close to its scheduled time as possible. If the sport overrun completely takes over the full length of a show that was to follow, then that show just is not seen at all.
2. Live sport finishes early or is not played: There has to be back up programming available – but the back up programming should not include a first run serialised show where viewers who are not aware of the sport not being shown will miss out on an episode and therefore potentially important parts of the plot. Back up programming should be chosen in such a way that those unaware are not missing out on anything significant. Also – if live sport finishes early, subsquent programming CANNOT be allowed to start ealry. FIll in programming must be inserted.
3. Big news day / extended news: Same rules for late running sport in point 1.
4. Big news day – Special: Networks are able to air a special at the last minute based on the events of the day should the importance warrant it. Examples include the recent royal wedding announcement, natural disaster specials and the like. The special should replace the program scheduled at the time it goes to air, while all other programming remains at its normal time.
5. Tributes. Often when a well known actor passes away, networks will opt to show tribute movies or specials. This is both fair enough and expected by the audience. Leslie Nielsen, of course, is a recent example of this.
6. Sudden removal of offensive program. A network may opt to remove a program at the last minute if it is deemed unsuitable to air or offensive. Although – these sorts of decisions should be made well before the seven day no change deadline.
7. Technical issues. In this day and age, technical issues hardly ever prevent programming going to air, but in the event issues arise, networks have to adjust around them accordingly. But they also should inform viewers as to what has happened using announcements or on screen messages. This seems to have happened to Gem the other day with an episode of Law and Order becoming a different episode ten minutes in.
8. Any subsequent programming that may be affected by the above points – such as serialised programs – is allowed to be adjusted accordingly. Sometimes, double episodes of a nightly show may air the next day following a big news day that prevented an episode from being aired. Often happens with Home and Away on Seven due to AFL games or extended news coverage.
Adherence to these sorts of guidelines would reduce viewer confusion and help stable programming schedules to be maintained. Viewers would not feel like they are being hard done by as a result of changes. The majority of last minute changes are for the sole purpose of trying to improve ratings. While share holders and advertisers may understand and accept that point, the average viewer does not – and at the end of the day, it is these very viewers that watch TV and chose to spend money with advertisers they are introduced to. Make too many changes, mess too much with the viewers, and they will start tuning out.
TV is like any business – the viewers are the customers that drive their income via ratings and advertisers paying for time based on those ratings. Once you lose a viewer or customer, it is very, very hard to get them back. In an era where we have more TV and entertainment options than ever before – shouldn’t there be more consideration for the viewer now? Not less?
Every time we reach non-ratings period for TV, I always ask why? Who does it benefit? Why have these vast tracts of time that are devoid of quality content? Yes, people watch less TV over summer, and are more prone to spend more time outdoors until later at night – especially if you have daylight saving, but people do still watch TV during summer.
Seven, Nine and Ten fill their schedules with repeats and shows that generally don’t cut it during ratings weeks. The big contradiction of the idea of non-ratings is that these three networks will still adjust their schedules and react to shows that rate poorly. Ten last year replaced Stargate Universe and Supernatural with movies for example.
During this time, both ABC and SBS continue to provide a similar level of quality of programming as they have all year. Pay TV launches a number of new shows over summer to attract viewers to them and capitalise on the lower quality content on the commercial networks. Pay TV shares increase over summer as a result.
Just about everyone has their opinion on Summer TV. There are arguments for and against the idea on both sides. But, however you read into it, the viewers get the raw end of the deal.
Looking at both sides of the argument of Summer TV, here’s a list of pros and cons I have come up with. Feel free to tell us your thoughts as well.
- The television industry essentially gets a break where they no longer have to focus on ratings and can work on other projects
- Having 12 weeks* of non-ratings saves money in the sense that TV networks do not have to spend the same level of money on content over summer
- The break gives people the chance to do things other than watch or care about TV – people’s routines tend to be different in any case during summer
- Summer TV allows networks to experiment with shows they deem risky otherwise.
- It would cost the networks a lot more each year to either produce or acquire content to fill 52 weeks a year and possibly drive up the cost of advertising
- Stretching seasons of shows into summer could possibly reduce the quality of TV in winter when more people are actually watching TV. There is a risk of poorer programming more often and spread over the year rather than just concentrated during non-ratings** – therefore non-ratings helps keep better programming for the middle of the year when more people are there to watch TV
- Viewers are left with very poor viewing options – especially those without Pay TV or who do not yet have digital free to air
- Less people watch TV so less revenue for TV networks.
- Viewers look elsewhere for quality TV and end up with Pay TV or hiring DVDs/Blurays.
- Advertisers lose out as less people see their ads during these times
- No other industry (other than schools) has this amount of time off or in holiday mode
- TV is big business, so any extra cost in producing / acquiring quality content for 52 weeks of the year would be both affordable, and offset by increased advertising revenue
- During non-ratings, viewers can become disillusioned with free to air TV and any benefit gained by promoting “more channels for free” is quickly lost when people start thinking “14 or 15 channels and nothing to watch on any of them”
- In what must be the ultimate contradiction, ratings results are still counted and issued on a daily basis
- Networks still react to these figures as they are important to their earning potential (although they do all stop sending out daily reports talking up their previous night’s figures).
- Networks still make programming amendments to help optimise their ratings potential
- Programming worth watching still rates through the roof. The 6pm news and the subsequent current affairs shows are still amongst the most watched shows on Seven and Nine.
- If we must have non-ratings why not just the two weeks that surround Christmas and New Year – the same as most industries?
- Maybe in summer, programming could be shifted later to take full advantage of extra daylight and the shift in people’s habits? News at 7.30pm? Prime programming 8.30 – 10.30?
- While I believe too many shows are repeated, I think the idea of encores*** could overcome the problem of viewers missing shows they may have watched but were not able to due to doing other activities or conflicts. An encore could be screened later night on a digital channel, or next day even – sort of like what GO and GEM do now but taking it a step further with the main channels as well. It also avoids conflicts and allows more viewers to be exposed to a show. This, however, is a subject to go in depth with another time.
* 10 weeks over summer, two over Easter. Total 12 per year.
** Both Seven and Nine and aired more repeats than ever before in 2010 during the main ratings season – this can be attributed mostly to the effect of filling content on their multi channels.
*** Encores are repeats but I define an encore as an episode of a show being repeated before its NEXT episode airs. Foxtel tend to do this many times a week with most of their shows which allows viewers to avoid prime time conflicts with free to air prime time viewing. A repeat on the other had, is not seen for months and who is ever going to try and remember which episode they missed so they can catch it again in repeats?
Federal Cabinet is meeting today in order to make the decision over whether to extend the anti-siphoning list of sports that must appear on free-to-air TV.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has given very little away so far but says sports fans will not be disappointed.
“As a major football follower … I, obviously, want to see Australians being able to enjoy their footy and the sport that they care so much about,” the PM told ABC Radio.
The current list expires on December 31 this year and the Government has not made any announcements regarding an extension as yet.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has said he may intervene in order to keep popular sports on free-to-air over the summer.
Source: Herald Sun
I find watching TV very enjoyable and watch at least four hours each day.
I do not know anyone who has/had a ratings box. How accurate can these ratings results be? It’s such a small cross section of people. This topic often comes up in conversation and I cannot even find anyone who even knows of someone with the ratings box. Based on what I know about the ratings process and as a professional acountant and business owner, I would not place any credibility in the numbers produced. I certianly would not want to produce any financial results or recommendations this way. I cannot beleive it’s such a hot news topic each week.
It has been reported that the audience for free to air TV in Australia is shrinking. This year so far, the overall audience is down about 1% which is not much but considering this year we have seen four new free to air digital channels launched and that the population of the country has grown by 2%, the figure should be a concern for the free to air networks.
Meanwhile, the subscription TV sector has seen growth that continues year by year. Nothing sums it up better than this graph which shows the audience shares of the three commercial networks compared to subscription TV (STV). The graph clearly shows the increase of STV over Seven, Nine and Ten. It also clearly shows the demise of Nine’s strangle hold over Australian TV audiences and the rise of Seven in the past four year.
What this all means is that the advertising dollar for the commercial free to air networks is shrinking. Then factor in that now there are twice as many channels to spread their ads over as there was in previous years. Any wonder the networks are struggling and why the roll out of new channels has been slow.
Another consideration is the fact that what qualifies a show as being a flop or a hit has to be redefined. With so much more competition now in extra digital channels, subscription TV also increasing in the channels and services it offers as well as other entertainment media, no longer can we expect to see Australia’s top shows rate as high as they used to.
Where in the past a million might have been considered the bench mark for minimum performance of a prime time show on a free to air commercial channel, now it should be more like 750,000. And with digital channel shares increasing – now getting close to 10% of the total audience, the networks will need to come up with new ways to keep viewers watching and satisfying the demands of advertisers.