Overlaps of shows is ticking me off (and frustrating me to no end)


In the past few months, I’ve had problems setting up the recording options for a few shows.

Honestly… it’s nothing major… there are simply a few moments occurring every so often where a couple of televisions shows, a movie or two, and assorted odds and ends all collide to share some broadcast time.

I point to it being more recent when I say it’s not major because these days, thanks to the rebroadcast schedule of a few networks and on demand options, it’s usually possible to find anything I couldn’t record when I first wanted to.

Still… the actual origins go back several years… and frustrating is a better word to use, but probably not for the reason (or reasons) you might expect.

Generally, when I discover a recording issue, there are two scenarios far more likely to be involved than any others. The first is that, before the scheduled run time, I happen to be looking at the program guide, and I notice a symbol saying one show won’t be recorded. The second is that a day or two after a show aired, when I pull up the listing to look for it, I discover it’s not there.

Both situations are easy enough to address. The solution being that I just have to find another way to record the batch of shows I’ve selected on that night, or, find another showing of the one I missed. And a little bit of time is usually the only investment necessary. (Usually.)

This has nothing to do with the frustrations.

Instead, the frustrating part is that the networks know damn well that they are causing the issue.

I think you know the drill.

Let’s just say your DVR allows you to record two shows at once. The understandable difficulty is caused by trying to record four. Right? Absolutely not. It’s usually because I’m trying to record… oh… I don’t know… let’s say two.

What I am getting at is those phantom extra minutes or so some shows have. They don’t run from 9pm to 10pm. No… they run from 9pm to 10:01pm. And when lining things up, that means it can be really easy to have two… three… four shows overlapping in that one-minute window that begins at 10pm. The DVR says no.

Has anyone figured out why this is happening?

When it started several years ago… I seem to recall noticing it for the first time during American Idol broadcasts… I figured it was some sort of network plot. Actually, a really genius network plot. Follow me here…

  • American Idol was a ratings behemoth.
  • By extending the show for two minutes… say running American Idol from 8:00pm to 10:02pm… it registered as one of the possible selections at 10pm. That meant it might just block you from recording something on a different network. This just might encourage you to just give up and record whatever show followed American Idol since that didn’t cause a conflict.
  • Poof! Good ratings for American Idol… which might also lower ratings for opposing networks for that evening… and could even increase the ratings for that 10:02pm Fox show.
  • (And, oh yeah, also adds in 2 minutes of commercial slots available for sale as part of the American Idol broadcast… since American Idol shows always seemed to need more commercial opportunities.)

Yup… brilliant.

It’s getting worse, not better. And it is there that my frustrations begin to really take root, since it means there is zero chance of this overlap coming to an end.

Networks are playing funny games… and we’re talking throughout the entire small screen world of “broadcast” networks (those big ones like ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox), “cable” television (say TBS, AMC, and TV Land), and “subscription” services (for example, HBO).

See… they’re not just competing with each other anymore. A game like having Glee or American Idol running an extra minute or two truly provided amazing programming decisions for those reasons I point out. (Or whatever is being broadcast now that those shows have ended their runs.) You were able to sell more advertising time during the highly rated show, and you added in the possibility of decreasing numbers for opposing networks, while maybe… just maybe… increasing numbers on yours.

We’re quickly leaving that playing field though.

Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and others have joined the game. On demand libraries have increased. People are watching television not on televisions, but on phones and tablets and laptops. Viewers want to fast forward past commercials.

Or… you know… do you think it’s just a massive coincidence that we’re getting more and more 15-second advertisements along with increased cross-promotion of shows? …have you completely missed that there are dozens of styles being followed by networks for when and how a “season” of a show is run?

The playing field has indeed changed. For lack of a better description, the old cliché works… the genie is out of the bottle. And we’re not going back.

I’m not suggesting we should. Frankly, I’m amazed by the number of exceptional scripted shows that exist right now.

Perhaps it’s just me… caught in that time period of an age where normal had been 6pm local news, 6:30pm national news, and an 8pm start to prime time… trained in that mindset of new seasons starting in September, wrapping in May, and scheduled to maximize the months where viewing numbers are being officially measured to determine advertising rates.

That combination of typical and routine goes out the window with full seasons being released in a day or audiences binge watching episodes.

In so many ways though, it’s not me. I’m not asking for technology to slow down. Despite my nostalgic appreciation of newspapers sending out morning and evening editions, I’m not looking for us to demand things stay the same. Far from it.

Instead… just… well, chaos is a good concept for it.

It seems random… lacking organization… chaotic. It seems like something that might have been an interesting thought… like when NBC took half-hour sit-coms and increased them to forty-minute super-size episodes to strengthen Thursday night broadcasts… and yet now has spun out of control, with unexpected consequences and underrated competition smacking into the business model and revenue projections.

Now that extra minute… that shifted schedule… remains. It’s there right now. You wouldn’t need long to find it, since quite likely as you are reading this at least one network on your cable… or satellite… is running a program that started at an odd time.

For whatever reason, it annoys me… it frustrates me. And as technology improves so that I don’t miss anything despite the overlaps log-jamming DVR options, it’s the thought that counts… the perception and not the reality.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com