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Will somebody halt this TV scheduling mayhem?

Following quality series on the small screen is perfectly possible in Spain – if you’re a clairvoyant insomniac.

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Following shows like 'Mad Men' in Spain can be difficult because of scheduling changes.

An article published in El País on April 24 addressed the issue of how to be a successful follower of television series in Spain. (El reto de ser ‘seriéfilo en España). As a case in point, it cites the US show American Horror Story, which the channel Cuatro began broadcasting a few weeks ago at 10.30pm on a Tuesday.

My husband and I decided to record the first two episodes of the series, which were broadcast as a special double-bill. The double and triple -bill strategy is an interesting trick here, perhaps intended to entice audiences to watch and then stick with the show, presumably under the somewhat patronising supposition that Spanish audiences lack the patience to watch one episode a week?

According to Mercedes Gamero, from Antena 3, episodes from American series are 40 minutes long (as opposed to the 80 minutes of homegrown series) and broadcasting just one episode would leave audiences “hanging” without anything else to watch in “the middle of the night” (…at 11.30pm?)

My feeling is that broadcasting series in this way is tantamount to spitting them out quickly and getting them over with. The overall message is that schedulers have little respect for the series and even less so for their viewers.

The main problem of course is practicality. For example, broadcasting three episodes in a row at 10.30pm means either a) staying up until 1.30am or b) recording three hours of TV after which you have to make time to watch them all before the next (two or three) episodes are on.

More extreme examples of programming usually occur with series from the UK or elsewhere in Europe. The BBC’s six-episode serial Life on Mars was broadcast over two consecutive nights during one weekend at the ‘tuck me away where no-one will notice’ time of 12am, when most younger Spaniards are out on the town anyway.

American Horror Story, meanwhile, is a key example of how, when it comes to scheduling, little consideration is paid to audiences. As El País revealed, the week after the series’ first showing on a Tuesday night, schedulers at Cuatro changed its broadcasting time to a Wednesday night at quarter past midnight.

Patricia Marco (also of rival channel Antena 3) told the paper that sometimes “schedulers get it wrong. We put it on the wrong day, at the wrong time or they clash with other programmes so we prefer to withdraw them from a slot when there’s more competition…We try to let audiences know about the changes, but we don’t always achieve it.” In other words, they change it from a time when it may clash with the competition to a time when, quite possibly, fewer people will get to watch it. Surely the scheduling equivalent of shooting yourself in the foot.

Unsurprisingly, says the paper, such sudden and unexpected moves in the scheduling of foreign TV shows constitute one of the main complaints among viewers.

‘Sponge Bob’ vs ‘Mad Men’

Admittedly, television scheduling times in Spain do have a certain logic. For a start, Spaniards (from small children to the retired) generally go to bed later than most of their European counterparts. As such, children’s programmes (Sponge Bob Square Pants, for example) are usually on around 8-9pm, later making way for entertainment like El Hormiguero (a ‘fun’ mix of celebrity interviews and wacky scientific experiments) and ‘El Intermedio’ (political satire) followed by films or series, like that mentioned above.

While the scheduling of foreign shows is generally ad hoc, meanwhile, prime-time programmes, such as El Hormiguero, are staples of the Spanish TV diet. They are broadcast at the same time every single weekday night, almost without exception. If a format works, it is basically done to death. El Gran Wyoming, presenter of El Intermedio, is a genuinely funny man but there is only so much raised eyebrow and gurning one viewer can take before getting tired.

“Quality products like Mad Men or American Horror Story,” says Patricia Marco, “are better suited to a later time, when not everyone is watching”. Admittedly, such shows are not suitable for all audiences. However, often they are not just on at an hour when less people are watching, but at a time that makes them inaccessible to a major section of the potential audience.

Inventive scheduling

As an aside, my husband and I are huge fans of the HBO series True Blood, of which the third series started showing on Cuatro without our knowledge. But then this is unsurprising when you consider that it was scheduled to start at 00.15h on Tuesday April 3rd – just after the original programming of American Horror Story. It is now on at 2am, especially for those people left hanging without anything else to watch, perhaps.

If there is one thing you can say for Spanish TV scheduling, it is certainly inventive. NEOX tends to show several episodes of comedy shows in a block, of which the first is from the new season and the rest are from older, seemingly random ones.

Consequently, with a show like Two and a Half Men, viewers get stroppy teenage Jake for one episode followed by two episodes of Jake aged anything between five and 10. A similar thing happens with the hilarious Modern Family, where baby Lily regresses from age three to 10 months in the space of an episode. Now that’s what I call a modern family.





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Published: Apr 26 2012
Category: Featured, Iberoblog
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
Short URL: http://iberosphere.com/?p=6001
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1 Comment for “Will somebody halt this TV scheduling mayhem?”

  1. Lack of respect for the viewer, indeed, who is treated as a mere asset of the TV stations’ budget plans. All the more shocking because it happens in your living room.

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