/ Technology

If the TV schedule dies, will you miss it?

Falling house of cards

Netflix will soon release its brand new TV series House of Cards. And it won’t just be released online only, it will also be released in one go. It’s the beginning of a brave new world for TV – will you miss the old one?

House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey and based on the BBC classic of the same name, is a new 13-episode series launching in February.

It’s high-brow, it’s serious (it’s directed and produced by David Fincher, no less), but it’s not made by HBO, the BBC, or some other established name. It’s made by Netflix, the company behind the online film and TV streaming service that costs £5.99 a month. And, unlike a normal TV series, it won’t be released piece-by-piece on a schedule, but all in one go. This is the future of TV.

It’s only natural –

It’s a natural next step, really. Ever since the likes of Sky let you record programs and watch them later, we’ve been setting the TV-viewing agenda. Research by Gfk suggests that half of 18-49 year olds watching TV in the 8-9pm primetime slot last year, actually watched a recorded program. That’s up from 16% in 2008. The same research shows the number watching live primetime TV dropped from 83% to 64% in the same period. Unsurprisingly, the younger the person, the more extreme the figures become.

BBC’s iPlayer, meanwhile, goes from strength to strength. iPlayer use grew 28% from 2011 to 2012. And with Sky making the shift to on-demand and download services – as evidenced by Now TV from Sky and its polarising new Sky Go Extra service – the TV broadcasters are reacting to our habits.

All of which leads me to the conclusion that the TV schedule is, if not dying, in terminal decline. Whatever will happen to the Radio Times?

There’s no need to be nostalgic

Sometimes such developments feel forced upon us, unwelcome and cumbersome. Not this. It’s merely a reflection of what we want. I choose when to read a book, or watch a DVD, or go for a walk – why shouldn’t I decide when to watch TV?

There are exceptions, of course. Sport and live events (eg Strictly Come Dancing) will never cease to be important – not least as social networking gives them a new, interactive dimension. Eastenders and Corrie will probably still be going out at the same time, same place after the oft-promised apocalypse (Hollywood said so, so it must be true) finally arrives. But slowly and surely, the TV schedule will fade into insignificance. I think this is great news – do you?


Excellent, thats exactly how I prefer to watch TV shows, I do an entire season in a few days, thats how I watched “24” and “The Wire”. From a TV perspective, I record everything including the BBC evening news and then watch back 1 or 2 hours later to skip adverts / boring news stories. I still buy a guide to keep in the living room to set the Freeview box to record each night but found the best online service for me is http://www.onthebox.com.

Anything that lets people select their own entertainment and then schedule it to fit their lifestyle must have a good future. Then, hopefully, we will be more appreciative of live performances in the theatre or sports stadium where we have to turn up on time, switch off our mobiles, stop talking, and pay attention, as there is no rewind or fast forward facility.

Anything that will pressure TV companies into abandoning that mid season break thing is a good idea in my book.

In the dark ages before commercial TV, we could watch the Test Card or listen to music during the daytime ‘Interlude’. The highlight of the Interlude was the now celebrated Potters Wheel. I don’t remember the Potters Wheel, but it has been captured for posterity and made available on YouTube along with some early TV programmes. That should be enough to silence the critics of modern TV.

I haven’t figured out what a mid-season break is. 🙁

Mid season break is something imposed by US program makers. Lets say your favourite TV series has a new season with 20 episodes in it. You happily record and watch (thus missing adverts) the first 10 episodes over 10-12 weeks ( they always miss the odd week for some silly US national holiday or other). Then for no good reason,( I’ll tell you why I think they do it in a sec.) The program goes on hiatus for 2-3 months, then restarts to run the last 10 episodes. That’s the mid season break. One reason I heard for this strange behaviour is that it reduces the gap between seasons, so you don’t have to wait so long for the nest season to start.

The Walking Dead season 3 stopped at the end of Nov and will be restarting mid Feb.
Two and a Half men stopped before Christmas and I have no idea when its due to carry on.
Some for Anger Management.

Thanks William. I can see why this is annoying.

The way forward must be to watch what you want whenever it is convenient, and at an affordable price.

If anything, those annoying mid season breaks make your casual viewers lose interest and forget to tune back in when it comes back…

Apart from news and weather, I am not interested in watching live TV. If I want to watch TV I generally use iPlayer, which continues to improve.

The only time I look at a TV schedule is when I’m staying with friends.

We’ve got some friends like that as well.

paulyb says:
26 January 2013

End of scheduling?
How many broadband contracts have fair usage policies and limits on total monthly download limits. I measured my GB usage, BEFORE I was using Ondemand and Catchup, and I would have gone way over the average GB allowance offered by most services. Thankfully, I’m on unlimited proper.

My family still enjoys looking forward to certain days, watching live reality shows with TV voting, as well Baking competitions and Apprentice. Watching scheduled TV is like being part of the nation for certain programmes, but I agree with other posts, mid season breaks are very frustrating.

Loadsamoney says:
26 January 2013

Television – the drug of the nation. I work 65-75 hours a week and never have any time or indeed the inclination to lie in front of a TV watching endless propaganda and mind numbing, spirit crushing drivel. The country is on its a**e, it’s not helped by watching the television. Lazy, work-shy dole spongers, 50″ plasma job seeking wastrels. Stinking, roll-up smoking Sky Sports jesters, feeble, four-eyed DSS telly stinkers.

May I recommend the calming influence of Radio 4? It has a good proportion of listeners who are not enamoured with TV.

Peter says:
28 January 2013

65 hours a week!? Bad luck mate. You wanna get a better job!

And yet you have the time to write ill-informed and inflammatory trollish comments on the Which conversation blog…..

Sam, if you’re worried about a comment, please use the Report this comment button to tell us about it. Loadsamoney, please try and stay away from making offensive comments. You can read more in our commenting guidelines: https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines

Chris Gordon says:
1 February 2013

There is no report button on Loadasmoney’s offensive post or I would report it. Please remove the second part as derogatory. There a lot to say about the quality of a lot TV today but that comment is not it.

Like other posters, love iPlayer and catch-up TV, as too often decent programmes are scheduled against each other. Wouldn’t like to see the end to TV scheduling altogether as you can record programmes for later watching with this system and I don’t always want to watch something immediately, or watch a whole series in one session. Catch up tv has a limited period of availability.

How bizarre. The report this comment button has gone missing. My apologies, not sure what happened there. Thanks

My view on TV is to look at the schedule, choose what is really worth watching (that does limit it quiter a bit), and do something else the rest of the time. If there is a film or series I really would like to see, I buy the DVD(s) – we have Lovejoy, Some Like it Hot for example.
As an alternative to Radio 4 – which I like – try Classic FM – you can always read at the same time (and they are both on Freesat!)

I find myself recording more and more TV programs to watch later. I hate adverts so can skip them and if the program is 2 parts over 2 days, for example, I will record both episodes before watching both together. I find this helps continuity and helps me to keep up with the plot.
I like to record as it means I can watch again or watch the recordings when the kids are in bed. I love BBC i-Player and often watch programs I have missed or been told the following day at work by colleagues that I should have watched it. It streams well and the downloads are quick using a fast broadband service and the quality is pretty good in HD.

I have got so used to recording programmes with the PVR and skipping the commercial breaks and trailers while watching later that I tend to forget when watching TV in real time that I cannot fast forward so there is some animated pressing of the buttons on the remote to no effect. And the adverts are taking more time out of the programmes these days – we used to be hard pressed to make the tea and bring it in; now we have time to make the tea, feed the cat, empty the pedal bin, and polish our shoes without missing a moment.

For those who hate adverts I only have good things to say about the AdBlock extension for Firefox. It blocks adverts on YouTube and ITV Player. It doesn’t work on 4oD but Channel 4 puts all its programmes on YouTube, and it no longer works on Chrome, presumably as Google owns YouTube as well.

This means no more multiple repeats of gut-churning yoghurts and the like when watching a TV programme.

Ah Jonathan, I have mixed feelings about ad blocking extensions for browsers! Working for a website in the past so heavily reliant on advertising makes me sour to the idea of anyone blocking the adverts for a service they essentially get for free! I suppose that’s an argument for another day however 😉

I look forward to the EPG ( program guide) including previous days programs which are available through iPlayer etc. but it is still annoying that so many “smart” TVs do not offer the catchup options for all the channels. Samsung still dont offer channel 4’s 4OD.

I think the main thing I would miss is the ability to talk with friends and colleagues the next day about a programme that many of us watched the night before. Other than that, the ability to watch everything at a time that suits me sounds appealing.

I do this in a slightly different way. Friends who share my interests often mention that they have seen an interesting programme, or even drop me an email since they know how infrequently I watch TV. iPlayer is wonderful.

I thought I’d miss the catchup but I am not sure time is as vital as it was – people have spoken for ages about US show Breaking Bad and I’ve only just started watching it following a box set Christmas gift. I don’t feel I’m missing out by only just starting.

US programmes also cause a divide between those who (illegally) download them from the US as soon as they are broadcast and those who wait for the UK release, although Sky is trying to make its Sky Atlantic channel broadcast sooner rather than later.

We’re discussing this on the podcast (available Wednesday) So – goodbye the “watercoler moments”, then? When everyone discusses last night’s telly?

richard says:
29 January 2013

AS far as I’m concerned the quality of TV programmes in general has plummeted – The ‘popular’ programmes I find generally distasteful or multiple repeats. So in general I program my system to watch either recordings or pre-selected programs – In effect I already use a TV program scheduling.

I watch most of my TV programmes on catchup services or Netflix, so the death of scheduled TV to me would be a welcomed change.

I prefer to watch a series over a few days (depending on the number of episodes) rather than stretched out over months. I also hate the ads, so I download series in HD because the ads have been edited out.

As soon as BT Infinity goes live in our area (due soon) so that finally we will have fast, reliable BB, I will subscribe to Netflix.

enteeen says:
1 February 2013

My only concern is the rapidly increasing use of internet based tv and the bandwidth needed to accommodate it. Are the media service providers being allowed to race ahead of the internet infrastructure capacity? We don’t all have access to cable or fibre connections.

Peter Hulse says:
1 February 2013

Well, up to a point. I never watch live television, but highlight in Radio Times what I might want to watch, record it, and then watch it at my leisure (or realise life is too short to watch it, and so delete it unwatched). But i do still need to know what to record, which needs more than a straight listing.

And this doesn’t work for radio, so Radio Times can revert to being just that.

Bob Marcus says:
4 February 2013

It does work for radio using my PVR on freeview

If a whole series is available it’s useful but I use the TV mags to set my recordings for the week. All too often the catch up services don’t have the programmes I want available. Virgin even had episodes of Hollyoaks missing which was frustrating for those who watch it and often has nothing available from ITV at the end of an evening. I don’t want to wait a day for a standard catch up.

You will still need the Radio Times to see & review what is coming & be entertained by the magazine.
Do I think it is a good idea, will Which Magazine go the same way. Nope.

James says:
2 February 2013

I record a lot of programmes to watch later,usually by series link. What annoys me is that a lot of programmes start well after the programme has started, last night for example Great British Railways started ten minutes after the start of the programme. This is so annoying and it happens a lot with BBC 1 and 2.
I have complained but they don’t do anything about this problem.

Andy says:
3 February 2013

I record a lot via my PVR, partly to avoid, the adverts. However the schedule is essential to know what to record. I subscribe to Digiguide to compare schedules on my PC, much cheaper than the Radio Times etc. and easy to program my viewing. Channels can be arranged or deleted to suit my tastes and programme types highlighted with a colour code.
I find Freeview meets my viewing needs. I can’t see myself ever paying for Netfix etc.

I agree about DigiGuide. I’ve used it virtually since its inception. It is brilliant because it is so customisable and on a widescreen TV you can see 10 – 12 hours of all your favourite channels at a glance. There’s nothing to touch it.

I use TVGuide on my tablet and mobile, but although I think it is the best on that medium, it’s a poor substitute for DigiGuide.

The good news is that DigiGuides for other platforms are in the pipeline. Other than a subscriber, I have no other connection with DigiGuide: I highly recommend it as the best programme guide by a country mile.