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In search of a new TV format.

Vertical versus horizontal programming. TV stations can fight their main enemy: The remote control.

Those issues were first introduced by The TV Executive in one of its dailies at NATPE |93 The solution , given in an editorial, was for some stations to replace the traditional 40-year-old vertical programming with a horizontal scheduling format.

Overall, this unorthodox proposal has stimulated great curiosity, but its practicality was received with skepticism

In trying to refine the presentation of this concept, it must be said from the outset that vertical programming is suitable for small TV stations in major markets, or those unfortunate ones striving to achieve better results.

Basically, this proposed "day block" consists of running a different program genre each day of the week.

Mondays: All news, current affair, talk shows; Tuesdays: All drama (soaps, MOWs', mini-series); Wednesdays: Game shows (including, old ones), lotteries and call-in quiz shows; Thursdays: All theatrical movies. Fridays: All comedies; Saturdays: All children's shows and cartoons; Sundays: All sports.

The backbone of this concept is that today's broadcasters are fighting with old, traditional tools against "star-wars" technology.

With the advent of VCR, home video, satellite and cable, plus the remote control and all the ancillary entertainment and service channels, for many TV stations the traditional counter programming, the building block and the lead-in are no longer working.

Horizontal programming encourages the viewer to develop his own schedule, especially in a 20 or more TV channel universe, with a checkerboard type of zapping. Channel-hopping, is further encouraged by horizontal programming for two reasons: Fishing, for a better" program or for one suitable to one's "mood."

Once a viewer finds a suitable channel, it is generally assured that he will stay with it for at least 24 minutes.

At any particular time an average 15 percent of HUT is estimated to be channel-hopping. Specialized, general-audience channels, such as MTV, CNN, Comedy TV, Cartoon TV. E!, FNN etc., take advantage of channel hoppers who augment regular fans to increase daily and weekly "cume" ratings.

Vertical programming would capture some of the channel-hopping viewers (captivated by a personality perhaps), those who love that day's particular genre, and the viewers in the "mood" for that type of show. This is in addition to the regular fans. Vertical programming would retain viewer loyalty and brand identification (a la CNN or ESPN).

Vertical programing would reduce channel-hopping since it takes advantage of the largest possible "mood" audience. One can assume that Monday is the day for catching up with news and current affairs, after a "mindless" weekend. By Wednesday, though, one is ready for some pure escapist fun with game shows.on Friday, after a week of work, the mood is for laughing with comedies.

Sunday, of course, is for sports. Naturally, morning, shows would be geared toward women. late afternoons to children. evenings are for the family and nights for adults. This can be done even with sporting events, and ESPN is a point in case (And yes. one can find a "sentimental" game show for the afternoons.) Theatrical movies offer the best and widest choice of scheduling: Tearjerkers in the afternoons and action adventure-romantic films on prime time.

A station that programs in day blocks is, in effect, providing seven specialized TV services: a mini multiple-channel system on its own. This new TV format could give a station a new spotlight and put it in a position to fight new technologies with an appropriate aggressive and innovative approach. The caution is that this new TV format has never been tested in the marketplace, and therefore needs more analysis and feedback.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Serafini, Dom
Publication:Video Age International
Date:Apr 1, 1993
Words:598
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