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Block programming is the arrangement of programs on radio or television so that those of a particular genre, theme, or target audience are grouped together.


Overview

Block programming involves scheduling a series of related shows which are likely to attract and hold a given audience for a long period of time. Notable examples of overt block programming were
NBC The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) is an American American(s) may refer to: * American, something of, from, or related to the United States of America, commonly known as the United States The United States of America (USA), c ...
's Thursday evening "
Must See TV Must See TV is an advertising slogan that was used by the NBC to brand its primetime blocks during the 1990s, and most often applied to the network's Thursday night lineup, which featured some of its most popular sitcoms and drama series of the p ...
" lineup, which included two hours of sitcoms and one hour of '' ER'', and
Channel 4 Channel 4 is a British free-to-air Free-to-air (FTA) services are television (TV) and radio services broadcast in clear (unencrypted) form, allowing any person with the FTA Receiver, appropriate receiving equipment to receive the signal and ...
's " T4" program which often ran sitcoms like ''
Friends ''Friends'' is an American television sitcom A sitcom, clipping Clipping may refer to: Words * Clipping (morphology) In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of ever ...

Friends
'' back-to-back for an hour or more.
Rerun A rerun or repeat is a rebroadcast of an episode of a radio or television program. There are two types of reruns – those that occur during a hiatus, and those that occur when a program is syndicated. Variations In the United Kingdom Th ...
s on
cable television Cable television is a system of delivering television Television, sometimes shortened to TV or telly, is a telecommunication Media (communication), medium used for transmitting moving images in grayscale, black-and-white or in color, ...
are often assembled into similar blocks to fill several hours of generally little-watched daytime periods. A particularly long program block, especially one that does not air on a regular schedule, is known as a
marathon The marathon is a long-distance foot race with a distance of , usually run as a road running, road race, but the distance can be covered on trail routes. The marathon can be completed by running or with a run/walk strategy. There are also ...
. Block programming in radio also refers to programming content that appeals to various demographics in time blocks, usually corresponding to the top or bottom of the hour or the quarter-hour periods. For example, various musical genres might be featured, such as a country music hour, a three-hour afternoon block of jazz, or a four-hour Saturday night '70s disco show. Generally speaking, block programming is anathema to modern competitive commercial radio, which traditionally uses uniform formats, other than a handful of speciality shows in off-peak hours such as weekends (for instance, the infamous
beaver hour Canadian content (abbreviated CanCon, cancon or can-con; ) refers to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) requirements, derived from the Broadcasting Act of Canada, that radio and television Broadcasting, broadca ...
s in Canadian radio). The general rationale for not using block programming is that listeners expect a certain type of music when they tune into a radio station and breaking from that format will turn those listeners away from the station; likewise, a station that airs its programming in hodgepodge blocks will have difficulty building listener loyalty, as listeners' music will only be on for a few hours of the day. This argument for homogenized radio was also a driving force behind the effective death of
freeform radio Freeform, or freeform radio, is a radio station Radio broadcasting is transmission of audio Audio most commonly refers to sound In physics Physics (from grc, φυσική (ἐπιστήμη), physikḗ (epistḗmē), knowle ...
in the late 20th century. The case of
talk radio Talk radio is a radio format A radio format or programming format (not to be confused with broadcast programming Broadcast programming is the practice of organizing and/or ordering (scheduling) of broadcast media shows, typically radio and ...
is indicative of the decline of block programming: prior to the 1980s, it was not uncommon to mix various blocks of talk programming together on one station, but this has declined dramatically in the late 1990s and beyond. A listener to a
conservative talk radio Conservative talk radio is a talk radio Talk radio is a radio format containing discussion about topical issues and consisting entirely or almost entirely of original spoken word content rather than outside music. Most shows are regularly hoste ...
station will have little interest in a
progressive talk radio Progressive talk radio is a talk radio Talk radio is a radio format containing discussion about topical issues and consisting entirely or almost entirely of original spoken word content rather than outside music. Most shows are regularly hosted ...
,
sports radio Sports radio (or sports talk radio) is a radio format devoted entirely to discussion and broadcasting of sport, sporting events. A widespread programming genre that has a narrow audience appeal, sports radio is characterized by an often-low comedy ...
or
hot talk Talk radio is a radio format A radio format or programming format (not to be confused with broadcast programming) describes the overall content broadcast on a radio station , Sweden , Norway Radio broadcasting is transmission of audio signal ...
block, which reaches a different demographic; stations that have attempted the block strategy have historically been unsuccessful. Block programming of this nature is alive and well on outlets like
public radio Public broadcasting involves radio Radio is the technology of signaling and communicating Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share") is the act of developing Semantics, meaning among Subject (philosophy), entities or ...
(such as
NPR National Public Radio (NPR, stylized in all lowercase, npr) is an American privately and publicly funded non-profit media organization based in Washington, D.C. NPR is based in two locations: main NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C. (often re ...

NPR
,
BBC The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is a public service broadcaster, headquartered at Broadcasting House in Westminster, London. It is the world's oldest national broadcaster, and the largest broadcasting, broadcaster in the world by ...
, or the
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) and in multicultural radio serving broad ethnic and cultural audiences, although even in this realm the idea of block programming is declining due to competition for donations. Some programming blocks have become so popular that they have been transformed to full-fledged 24-hour channels. Current channels which started as program blocks include
TeenNick TeenNick is an American pay-TV channel that is operated by the ViacomCBS Domestic Media Networks ViacomCBS Domestic Media Networks (formerly known as Warner Cable Communications, Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment, MTV Networks and Viacom M ...
(originally a program block on
Nickelodeon Nickelodeon (often shortened to Nick) is an American pay television Pay television, also known as subscription television, premium television or, when referring to an individual service, a premium channel, refers to subscription The subs ...

Nickelodeon
and Noggin);
Disney Junior Disney Junior is an American pay television Pay television, also known as subscription television, premium television or, when referring to an individual service, a premium channel, refers to subscription The subscription business model is ...
(which is still a program block on the
Disney Channel Disney Channel (originally called The Disney Channel from 1983 to 1997 and commonly shortened to Disney from 1997 to 2002) is an American pay television Pay television, also known as subscription television, premium television or, when refer ...
);
Nick Jr. Nick Jr. (known on-air as the Nick Jr. Channel) is an American pay television channel A television channel is a terrestrial frequency or virtual number over which a television station or television network is distributed. For example, i ...
(which still airs on Nickelodeon);
Boomerang A boomerang is a thrown tool, typically constructed as a flat airfoil, that is designed to spin about an axis perpendicular to the direction of its flight. A returning boomerang is designed to return to the thrower. It is well known as a weap ...
(which was once a program block on
Cartoon Network Cartoon Network (often shortened to CN) is an American cable television Cable television is a system of delivering television Television, sometimes shortened to TV or telly, is a telecommunication Media (communication), medium ...

Cartoon Network
); and
PBS Kids PBS Kids is the brand A brand is a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from those of other sellers. Brands are used in business, marketing, and advertising for recogniti ...
, a 24/7 channel, which
PBS The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) is an American public broadcaster Public broadcasting involves , and other electronic media outlets whose primary mission is . In many countries of the world, comes from governments, especially vi ...
member stations are able to provide in addition to their current children's programming on the primary PBS channel. In addition,
TV Land TV Land is an American pay television Pay television, also known as subscription television, premium television or, when referring to an individual service, a premium channel, refers to subscription The subscription business model is a bus ...

TV Land
airs older shows that were once aired on sister channel Nickelodeon's
Nick at Nite Nick at Nite (stylized as nick@nite) is an American family-oriented nighttime programming block that broadcasts over the channel space of Nickelodeon. It typically broadcasts from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. (Mondays–Fridays, Sundays), 9:30  ...
program block. However, since the 2010s, new programming blocks have become rare due to airing programming in a regular format or with little or no brand reference within the programming block.SOAPnet Will Go Dark to Make Way for Disney Junior
, ''Entertainment Weekly'', May 26, 2010


See also

*
Audience flowAudience flow describes how people move through media offerings in a temporal sequence. Stable patterns of audience flow were first identified in the early twentieth century when radio broadcasters noticed the tendency of audiences to stay tuned to ...
* Lists of programming blocks *
Strip programming Strip programming or stripping is a technique used for scheduling television and radio Radio is the technology of signaling and telecommunication, communicating using radio waves. Radio waves are electromagnetic waves of frequency between 3 ...
*
Broadcast programming Broadcast programming is the practice of organizing and/or ordering (scheduling) of broadcast Broadcasting is the distributionDistribution may refer to: Mathematics *Distribution (mathematics) Distributions, also known as Schwartz ...
*
Dayparting In broadcast programming, dayparting is the practice of dividing the broadcast day into several parts, in which a different type of radio programming or television show appropriate for that time period is aired. Television programs are most often ...
*
Marathon (television) A marathon is an event in which viewers or readers engage many hours' worth of media Media may refer to: Physical means Communication * Media (communication), tools used to deliver information or data ** Advertising media, various media ...


References

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