Are TV programmers broadening their horizons with where scripted shows can play?
On Thursday ABC’s Call the Midwife will screen in an 8pm timeslot, breaking with the tradition of screening in an 8:30 slot.
That may well confuse -or even anger- some viewers who are accustomed to traditional junctions.
But it may also delight others frustrated by an early evening lack of choice. Whilst 7:30pm was once a destination for Drama and Comedy, in recent years it has been dominated by Reality and Entertainment.
ABC has had some challenges with its 8pm timeslots, endeavouring to link between 7:30 and its 8:30 shows with local content that hits the right tone.
This year it moved The Checkout to Tuesdays and while 8:30 Thursday has been a drama mainstay in recent years, it has opted to return to other nights, including Fridays & Sundays.
Meanwhile tonight Neighbours has a 90 minute special at 6:30pm on ELEVEN while Home and Away has screened 90 minute compilations for some time on Thursdays. Nine has recently found success with True Story with Hamish & Andy and Here Come the Habibs in early evening slots.
Rebecca Heap, Head of Programming at ABC, recently told TV Tonight there would be changes to Thursday scheduling.
“It was absolutely the right strategy for us over the last few years to be pursuing Thursday nights as a Drama proposition. But the reality is our Drama slate is so diverse that we felt for 2018 we needed to change things up a little bit,” she said.
“So they will not consistently be on Thursday nights this year. We will be mixing it up for our audiences, including more acquired titles on Thursday nights as well.”
One industry insider says while experimentation is a good thing the real question is whether the movie is strategic or reactive.
“TV Scheduling used to be a game of chess between all of the programmers, each trying to find a chink in the others armour. But now in a world of stripped reality franchises and on demand consumption the old landscape of having to hit all the important junctions at 7.30 / 8.30 and 9.30 is less and less valid,” they said.
“If anything the only two junctions that matter for Live viewing these days are 7.30pm and 9pm. The ABC has its hands tied at 7.30 so it largely relies on hanging onto the viewers they have, the later junctions and refugees from wall to wall Reality.
“The ABC also has limited external marketing, so the best choice for the ABC is to deliver consistency and predictability so that their audiences know what to expect and when to expect it.”
This week Call the Midwife will be followed by a Q&A #metoo special at 9pm. Next week at 9pm ABC airs a one-off UK drama special, Against The Law.