You know the feeling: you've set your PVR to record your favourite show, but when you finally watch it the last 10 minutes are missing, Those recordings rely on accurate information being sent by networks to electronic program guides (EPGs) — yet incredibly, if you ask TV executives if they think they do a good job of providing accurate data, the response turns out to be an overwhelming "yes".
TV Tonight asked network programmers (who determine the schedule) at all the major free-to-air networks (plus Foxtel) how they would rate the accuracy of their EPG data. Seven, Ten and Foxtel all gave themselves a perfect 10/10 score, which seems ridiculous given how often the commercial providers mess around with their schedules and run shows over. (Foxtel is generally much more reliable with its own channels, but can't control what the free-to-air networks tell it.) Just slightly more modestly, SBS and the ABC gave themselves 9/10 scores, while Nine gave itself 8/10.
Every programmer interviewed made the valid point that if live shows overrun, then the schedule will be messed up. However, it's often the case that shows overrun even when they're entirely pre-recorded and their length is known (My Kitchen Rules and The Block are serial offenders here). A more honest explanation comes from Nine's Andrew Backwell, who acknowledges the common phenomena of running shows over time and advertising false starting times to try and avoid people changing channels when a show finishes:
There will be occasions where we make mistakes, and occasions that we think it’s better to run a promo that says 8:30 rather than 8:39 . . . In terms of us putting dodgy information in the EPGs –I’m not saying it hasn’t happened in the past, and I’ve been guilty of it — you have to have respect for the viewers.
Those two sentiments ("we respect the viewers" and "we do advertise false start times") don't seem very compatible to me. We saw earlier this week that Nine was quite happy to leave its programming plans unannounced until just hours before a broadcast.
Judging by the level of confidence network programmers display, it doesn't seem we're going to see any big shift in network scheduling habits any time soon. As such, complaints from those broadcasters when people start deciding to download shows instead are going to sound more hollow than ever.
TV Programmers rate their own EPG accuracy [TV Tonight]