8pm Drama? ABC shakes up Thursdays.

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.

What's the best time for Drama to screen?

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  1. Nothing wrong with drama at 8pm if it is appropriate day and Call The Midwife is perfect. But changing the subject a little moving the ABC’s Gardening Show to Fridays at 7.30 and stretching it for an hour is just too much even for a keen gardener! It has forced it into a strange lifestyle/gardening hybrid like the commercials. Why would the ABC torture an old and audience pleasing favourite just to extract another half hour of local content? Bizarre.

  2. I’d be happy for 7:30pm starts for shows that are moderate in nature like NCIS, Bull and etc., and they follow on after that, could do an NCIS trio that way. However probably in the minority for that and really it would only work over Winter and not many people like shows delayed to US airing times, which would be needed to make that happen.

    Of course having Scorpion on at 6:30pm, MacGyver at 7:30pm and Hawaii Five-O at 8:30pm didn’t work well for TEN, then again that was on Saturday’s up against the AFL and NRL so who knows.

    Would love TEN to do it on ONE at least, can see repeats of Monk at 7:30pm, Psych at 8:30pm and White Collar 9:30pm working that is if CBC owned TEN are still getting USA Network TV shows.

  3. Hallelujah! Finally an alternative to reality tv. I for one miss the days of family dramas at 730pm like A Country Practice, EStreet, The Flying Doctors, Richmond Hill etc.

  4. 8.00pm start for Midwives is not a good move. Being the start of a new series, and having just finished repeats of the last season at 8.30, people are not going to know or remember its on half an hour early. Perhaps it would be better to start doing this when day light savings ends. Its the only show I watch on abc atm, so I don’t see the ads.

    • As pointed out the ABC’s strategy is to hold ABC watchers who stay there all night. If they wait till 8:30pm people will switch over to something else and not return. They can’t really compete against the commercial channels for viewers because they stagger stuff from 7:30pm till after 9pm.

  5. I struggle to understand why a commercial channel hasn’t attempted drama at 7.30pm when it worked so well in the past. Viewers wanting drama in the early evening have abandoned FTA TV in favour of streaming. Is it any wonder the networks can’t find an audience for drama when they play it at 9pm or later these days?

    • Agreed! I’d love to see a drama on at 7:30. Anything other than wall to wall reality on the commercial channels. A show like This is us could easily run in that time slot. Whenever I see a new show advertised for a 9pm start I don’t even bother watching it as I know it will be more like 9:17 before it starts.

    • You mean like when 10 moved Bull from 9pm to 7:30pm and it’s audience evaporated. The family sitting around watching sitcoms and dramas after dinner at 7:30pm is over. When they watch TV in the evening it is trashy game shows. When they do watch drama they increasingly timeshift or stream it.

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