If you’re one of the people who tune in to Comedy Central on a regular basis, you’ve noticed something going on for a long time now which should rightly have you annoyed. You may think this is yet another screed against their regular skewering of conservatives far more often than liberals, but it’s not. The network has been starting shows on an increasingly bizarre, non-half hour schedule where their afternoon and prime time schedule kicks off. While this is not a new evil in broadcast greed, Comedy Central has taken the practice to new heights.
Your immediate assumption may have been because it’s simple greed, both for advertising revenue and viewer share in the ratings. And you’d be right… but there’s more to the story than that. This phenomenon was noted by media analysts more than a decade ago. And one of the chief reasons was to slosh around those advertising dollars.
Inveterate time-shifters — including owners of digital video recorders such as TiVo, as well as some VCR owners — are getting ticked off by the minutes lost when broadcasters shift their schedules so some shows start and end just slightly off the hour or half-hour…
But the motive is nothing so sinister. The networks are simply capitalizing on hit shows by moving a minute or two of ad or promo time from a lower-rated show into a more popular one that precedes it. They can then charge more for the ad and reach more viewers with a plug for another show.
Is Comedy Central doing some of that now? Yes. And the result is the usual, unwarranted annoyance of either missing part of the show on their network you wanted to watch or having to tune out early from the end of another show you like. And if you happen to use more antiquated methods of recording shows, you’ll miss out on it as well. They are also trying to capitalize on the idea that by getting you to miss a portion of a show on another network, they will steal away a rating point or two which they didn’t earn.
But Comedy Central has taken the practice to a new extreme, vastly greedier than the two or four minute “shifts” which networks used in the past to pad a popular show with a couple of extra ads. Take a look at the full daily schedule for Comedy Central. They aren’t just “stuffing” a few extra minutes into a popular show and taking them from another. This is something entirely new.
In the mornings they begin shuffling the start times around and stuffing more advertisements into their highest rated shows, but they splice in a number of shorter “Comedy Central Presents” clips (which run less than half an hour) to mix things up. They begin at 9:00 AM eastern and run Entourage, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report for 33 minutes each, and then stuff in a short stand-up bit for 21 minutes to reset the clock to 11:00. They continue this until they almost hit the top of the hour for the late afternoon / evening shift at 5:01.
A that point they being a series of what are supposed to be 1/2 hour shows, beginning with Futurama. Check out the math here:
5:34 It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
6:39 The Colbert Report
7:14 The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
7:48 South Park
8:21 South Park
10:30 South Park
11:00 The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Notice what happened there? Not only do they run the shows at off times, packing ads into some of them like The Daily Show to balloon them up to *
44 minutes 34 minutes long but they never give the time back to another show. The end result – if you add up all the shows above – is that they run eleven “half hour shows” in the six hours between 5:00 and 11:00. Put another way, they have stuffed a full, extra 1/2 hour show worth of commercials into a six hour period where they should have shown twelve. All the while messing up people’s plans to watch any given shows, messing up the ratings system and cashing in on more ads for the few shows they have which actually draw a reasonable audience. And they “miraculously” get back to an even hour starting time just in time for their flagship show at 11:00.
Now I know what many of you are thinking. “Oh, Jazz… how quaint! You still watch shows at the times they actually play? When will you come into the 21st century, you old fart? Well, I won’t. I’m an old man. (And yes… you are hereby invited to come mow my lawn and then get the hell off of it.) I don’t watch that much TV and don’t care to invest in some 24/7 “record everything” system. My wife and I generally pick a few shows we might like to see and we’d like them to start on time.
So I’m now only watching a couple of Comedy Central shows on the computer whenever I feel like it. (Yes, they run ads, but the network gets a LOT less money for those advertisements.) We shouldn’t have to put up with this. It’s beyond annoying and they should be called out for it.
Rant. Over. Jazz. Out.
*EDIT: (Jazz) Yes, it’s 34 minutes, not 44. What can I say? Math is hard. But the total added commercial weight still comes out to 11 “half hour” shows in six hours.