Question of the week: what do you think of ‘event’ scheduling?

So the latest wheeze in TV scheduling is ‘event’ scheduling. With so many other competing channels and media to deal with, and the iPlayer and catch-up TV systems making conventional scheduling almost redundant, schedulers need to find a way to make people sit up and take notice of their programmes. So they’re now scheduling TV shows as ‘events’, clearing the schedules and stripping them across a number of days in one week rather than an episode a week for a month or so.

So this week, the BBC ran Exile over three nights and ITV ran Case Sensitive over two nights. I was going to watch Exile, but my PVR decided not to bother with the third episode. I was going to watch Case Sensitive but I thought the next episode was going to be on next week so I missed it. The only time I have to watch most TV is when I’m commuting so will I be using either the iPlayer or the ITV Player to watch them? No. But I might do if I there were more time between episodes for me to catch up with them. 

In other words, event scheduling actually stops me watching programmes I might have watched, not makes me watch them.

Your mileage may vary of course, so this week’s question is:

Does event scheduling make you more or less inclined to watch a TV series?

Answers below or a link to your response on your own blog, please

  • Electric Dragon

    I know what you mean and agree that it makes it less likely I’ll watch. It also seems to be a consequence of shorter series lengths – Exile could have benefitted from a couple of extra episodes to flesh the characters out a bit and allow relationships and events to develop a bit more plausibly: but it’s harder to find the schedule space to strip a five or six episode series across a week than a two or three. As you say if you miss one episode it gives you a much harder task to fit it in before the next one – or it puts everything back.

  • I completely agree that treating dramas as “events” is actually more damaging than good (and I wrote about it a bit last year).
    Aside from the foolhardiness of BBC1 and ITV1 scheduling dramas aimed at the same kind of audience up against one another, you end up with one of two problems.
    Either you miss episode one, have no time to catch up (say on iPlayer), and don’t bother watching at all.
    Or you end up with a stack of episodes on your PVR which can quickly become quite worrisome. And I bet more often than not, rather than “work through” three episodes of Exile, people will delete it.
    My Sky+ is currently hovering around 20% free, with two Exiles (I missed the first part altogether, but will watch on iPlayer) and two Case Sensitives stacked up.
    At the very least, if you’re going to schedule that way, schedule same week repeats. Exile gets a same-night showing on the BBC HD channel but that’s about it. (And while we’re about it, why isn’t ITV3 getting another airing of Vera which I completely forgot about at the weekend? The ITV Player is something that fills me with dread. And I can’t watch it on my TV without a laptop and an HDMI cable trailing across the floor).
    Once in a blue moon, treating us to event scheduling can work. But all it really does is ensure that those “water-cooler moments” are well and truly lost.
    It might help DVD sales mind…

  • SK

    Hm, I disagree about Exile — I thought it was the right length, and that an extra couple of episodes would just have got tedious, succumbing to that British drama malaise where after the fist episode nothing happens for about six weeks (see also: Outcasts).
    But then it’s well known that I like short series.
    As to the broader point: I do agree that it’s annoying. I usually have time to watch about one hour of television a night, when I get home from whatever I was doing that evening; so in order to avoid slipping behind (which is the death knell for this kind of thing — once you’re behind you stay behind) that means that basically everything else gets put on hold for that week.
    I suppose there’s a continuum, from Sunday-Monday thrillers a la Waking the Dead through to full-week events like Five Days (which really was two days too many) or Torchwood. The two-episode ones aren’t too bad, the five-episode ones are annoying and lots of them I tend to miss because I don’t want to commit that amount of time (Criminal Justice, for example).
    What it makes me think, though, is that it betrays a lack of confidence in one’s programme’s ability to become a real event where, for example, people actually talk about it between episodes, and all tune in for the last episode together. Stripping it over a week doesn’t give time for that sort of thing to build. I remember back when State of Play was on, everyone seemed to be on tenterhooks waiting for the next episode — that just wouldn’t happen if the whole thing had been over in a week.
    And obviously the high point of ‘event TV’ is something like The Quatermass Experiment — could that have worked, all in a week? (Besides that it would have killed the cast and crew).
    So while practically it does annoy me, in terms of making things busy, it more annoys me in terms of what it means for the shifting ambitions of TV. Instead of ‘hook people, make it build, make them care, then deliver the punch at the end when you’ve got them exactly where you want them,’ it’s ‘throw it out in one blaze of publicity, get it over with, move on.’
    Less ‘event scheduling’ and more ‘hit and run scheduling’.
    There’s probably a comparison to be made with the obsession over opening-weekend numbers for films, and the tendency for that to mean that more effort goes on the publicity than the actual film, that I could make if I had more time.

  • Mark Carroll

    I usually only have so much time to devote to things. Each evening in a week or suchlike is just too much.
    But our DVR never seems to get dangerously full and I watch almost nothing live so it really doesn’t make much difference to me.

  • I’m not wild about ‘event scheduling’. Too often it feels like a way of getting stuff ‘out of the way’ rather than being a Big Deal. And it has to be something special to really warrant that sort of committment anyway — the more the technqiue is repeated the more you get diminishing returns. Audiences just cannot be bothered I think.

  • Marie

    I absolutely loathe it. I’m sure it’s dreamed up by schedulers who are either so in love with TV that they think there’s nothing else in the world, or who have young children and are therefore in every night of the week. If, however, you have a social life and other interests and your entire life doesn’t revolve around what’s on the box, there’s no way you’re going to make an effort to stay in for three nights in a row or whatever just so you can watch a particular series. And so it all goes on the PVR and the next thing you know you’ve forgotten all about it. That’s if you even knew about it in the first place. Exile passed me by completely, I’d never even heard of it until it was over. If I’d only missed the first ep, I might have made an effort to watch it online and then catch up. But I’ve missed the lot, so I can’t really be bothered.