Friday, June 27, 2008

Timeslot matters for the soaps! And so does culture

I put this on SON today, as part of a thread focusing on a montage of UK soaps.

But, this little bit of timeslot research explains a lot, I think.

The US appetite for the daily serial format (which is dying). BBC America quickly cancelled Hollyoaks. We see no attempt to bring EastEnders or Coronation Street to the US (although the latter flourishes in Canada).

Americans predated the rest of the western world in women in the workplace (I'm not counting the former Communist countries), in fast food, and in the demise of communal activities (like bowling leages). It's go-go-go. It's work interfering with family time. It is parents and children not eating dinner together. It's microwave food.

Into that climate, there is NO WAY to slip in a daily soap or two. Most families--AND ESPECIALLY THE TARGET WOMEN--simply have ZERO capacity.

The rest of the world still has a higher proportion of at-home women (the social systems still encourage stay-at-home moms), there still less of a culture of Macdonalds and its' ilk, plus many of these shows are broadcast at more congenial times of the day.


Let's start with the UK.

Today's listings say that Eastenders will appear on BBC1 at 8 pm! PrimeTime.

ITV1 shows Corrie at 7:30 pm and 8:30 pm. This is preceded by Emmerdale at 7 pm.

Channel 4 shows Hollyoaks at 6:30 pm.

Channel 5 shows Neighbors at 5:30 pm followed by Home and Away at 6 pm.

Look at the implications of this. FIRST, you can watch the full lineup after the work day (ignoring time shifting). This encourages intergenerational soap watching in real time. Basically, in the "pre-watershed" time periods, families can watch soaps together.

But look too at how the channels basically work together to make sure the soap viewer can watch an unbroken series of programs from 5:30 pm on WITHOUT COMPETITION.

5:30 - Neighbors
6:00 - Home and Away
6:30 - Hollyoaks
7:00 - Emmerdale
7:30 - Coronation Street
8:00 - Eastenders
8:30 - Coronation Street

Not only do I believe the culture allows this (families are still more home-based, there is still more intergenerational residence), but the scheduling supports this.


Now, let's switch to Germany.

11:15 am, ZDF, Reich und Schoen (Bold and Beautiful)
5:30 pm, RTL, Unter uns
6 pm, ARD - Verbotene Liebe
6:25 pm, ARD, Marienhof
7:05 pm, RTL, Alles was zaehlt (rebroadcast the next morning)
7:40 pm, RTL, Gute Zeiten, schlechte Zeiten (rebroadcast the next morning)
2:25 am, ZDF, Schatten der Leidenschaft (Young and the Restless).

Germany is still even more ingrained in the woman-at-home culture. Still, they schedule their Bell soaps for "off hours" (and the ratings ain't great), but their core shows are in that early-evening slot.

Hmmmm...lessons to be taken?


Well, what about Canada. That shares a border with the US. What do they do?? Let's focus on the biggest market, Toronto:

1 pm, A-Channel, All My Chidren
1 pm, Global, Days of Our Lives
1:30 pm, CTV, The Bold and the Beautiful
2 pm, Global, As the World Turns
2 pm, A-Channel, One Life to Live
3 pm, CTV, General Hospital
3 pm, Global, Guiding Light
4:30 pm, Global, The Young and the Restless

And, guess what the number one show is?? Y&R! Hmmmm...could timeslot matter? Could absence of timeslot competition matter.

This is all so obvious to me. But there is a misogyny in US programming that has resisted migrating these shows to primetime. And we see the consequence....

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