European public television: Redefining content and scheduling strategies


European public television channels have had to constantly redefine their social role from the end of the European public monopolies until the digitalization and convergence of media causing significant transformations in the audiovisual industry (Dhoest & Simons, 2016). These changes have altered the European General-Interest Television content and have revealed relevant transformations. This study focuses on these changes in the five main television European markets (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and United Kingdom). We analyse the overall evolution of genres and the scheduling strategies, which have been challenged by the extremely high competitive context. In addition, the comparative approach of this research allows to showcase the significant similarities and differences among markets. Related to this, our main interest is to delve into the comparison between public and commercial channels.

This study has been carried out within the framework project “From Hegemony to Competition: Transformations of European Public Channels’ Programming Strategies Over the Last 30 Years (EU5)” of the Spanish National R&D Plan, founded by MICIU-FEDER (reference PGC2018-094863-B-100) developed by GRISS (Research Group on Image, Sound and Synthesis) of the Department of Audiovisual Communication and Advertising at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (Spain). The focus of this project is to explore and explain the evolution of European television schedules during the last 30 years of the DTT general-interest television channels from the main European television markets which represent 25 channels: 11 public (Das Erste, ZDF, BBC One, BBC Two, France 2, France 3, Rai Uno, Rai Due, Rai Tre, La1 and La2) and 14 commercial (ProSieben, Sat.1, RTL, Channel 4, ITV1, TF1, M6, Canale 5, Italia 1, Rete 4, Antena 3, Cuatro, La Sexta and Telecinco).

Content analysis has been carried out to explore the schedules of the different channels using the categories and variables of Euromonitor, a permanent observatory of television in Europe. The generic analysis contemplates a triple classification level. First, the nature of the program (macrogenre) is identified, secondly, the program is classified according to its format (genre) and, finally, the main topic of the program is addressed (microgenre). The preliminary results highlight the consolidation of three macrogenres: Information, Fiction and Infotainment, with some relevant transformations in their genres. However, while public televisions have been forced to follow these general trends to maintain their influence, our results show that there are still quantitative and qualitative differences between public and commercial channels choices.