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May 30, 2005


Paul Gladen

One of the interesting aspects here is the extent to which duration is pre-determined by the programmer compared to post determined by the viewer. I watch plenty of sports on TV and I while my preference is mostly to watch the live transmission, when I can't, I often prefer to watch a playback of the live transmission - skipping the breaks in play and commercials rather than have someone else decide what they think the highlights are. My highlights version is big on the good stuff by my favored team and light on the oppositions play, whereas a typical highlights show is more balanced. Perhaps there's a "long tail" of different highlights packages just for a single show.

Frank Ruscica


Was just working on my book proposal when it hit me: you are using your advance to fund your startup -- which will be popularized, more or less directly, by your book!

Very Trump-like.

And a new basis of competition for marketing books -- and hence, for book advances.

So I'm off to craft a variation of your technique that is appropriate to my particulars...

Fun stuff...

Incidentally, my book is tentatively titled:

Land of OpportuniTV: How entrepreneurs and television networks will partner to make America the Silicon Valley of customized education and career services, the global market Peter Drucker says will be the biggest within thirty years

My variation on your technique, then, will probably center on using my advance to shoot a rough cut of the pilot for Land of OpportuniTV -- the sitcom -- that will then be loosed on the 'Net.

So this comment is not totally off-topic :-)

Frank Ruscica

Whoops, wrong fellow. I meant this for John Battelle. You ignore, I'll cut-and-paste...


The "Adult Swim" programming on Cartoon Network features some shows that are 15 minutes in length.
(Robot Chicken, Tom Goes to the Mayor, etc)

Conversely BBC America has shows that are 40 minutes in length because they are 30 minutes without commercials in the UK (and this need 10 minutes of commercials tacked on for US transmission)

Just some data points.

Alex Harford

For an example of shorting programming, see the Clone Wars series that was shown on the Cartoon Network.


Does anyone remember Eveo? Back in 2000 they were posting 3 minute videos that people sent in. I sent in 4 of my elderly Mother on vacation. She is overweight and not afraid to try anything. I had her popping up in the dead sea. Riding a donkey in jordan. In a gondola giving a disapproving look at the dirty water in the canals in venice. Staying at Pousadas in Portugal. They were all very humorous -sort of the "sweet, dumb, ugly American" on vacation. I used Final Cut Pro to edit and my brother created original music to go along with them. Eveo said they would sell these 3 minute videos to be played in all kinds of strange places. Like on gas pumps while people were pumping gas, etc. I was so exicited! Then Eveo dropped out of sight and reappeared as some sort of marketing company for drug companies. My dream was shattered.

Jakob Nielsen

I would expect a renaissance of the short film as an art form. I already use my TiVo to record short films from the IFC and Sundance channel, finding it handy in case I have a little bit of free time. Ditto for music videos (I'm sure people have already noticed the number of successful movie directors who cut their teeth on music videos -- someday it'll be the other way around as well).

Jack Dahlgren

It has long been the case that Japanese TV programming does not come in 30 minute chunks. Some does, but not all. They also have 15 second commercials (which are often run twice in 30 seconds).

Calgary Observer

It is going to be an interesting future in TV land. I don't think we'll keep to that neat :00 and :30 format as far as broadcast times are concerned.

On British TV, for example, programs have always been scheduled individually (e.g., Law & Order may run from 9:55 to 10:50, while other shows may go from 8:20 to 9:00 pm).

All across Europe, you will find such "weird" broadcast times. One German network, for example, has the weirdest times of them all: The Simpsons may be scheduled to run from 7:29 to 7:57.

I prefer our simple and traditional approach.


I've done some research on this subject, and I find that, among those who work in TV, the consensus is that they'd want to pace themselves out to roughly 20 and 40-minute episodes, regardless of commercials and other broadcast restraints. There's something in that length of time that lets you communicate a certain type of story. My wife likes to watch her Japanese morning soaps which are all 10 minutes, every day, for 6 months... but they have an inherently different structure than what we're used to here in North America.

When I was editing kids' TV, we tended to make either 7 or 10 minute episodes. What I found was that most of the shows naturally fell at about 8 or 12 minutes, and we had to chop back to fit the slot. So there may be some artistic freedom to be had, but it may not end up that dramatic.

For the show I'm developing now, I've written about 10 episodes... since I have no length requirements (since it's a web-only show), I have been trying to free-flow my stories. And yet they're all ending up close to the standards. But even if I COULD make some 90 minutes and others 11, you'd have the real problem: if people are paying for these things one-at-a-time, how can you rationalize that a long episode is worth the same as a short one? And how about your co-tailers? Are you charging more for less in the same spectrum?

So then we're starting to standardize all over again, and my bet is it's going to be something in the range of 20-30 minute segments. But I would love to be proven wrong.

Paul Morriss

Following on from the comment about times in the UK. I think the American 30 minute thing has come about because from early on you had many channels and so needed to print TV guides laying all the channels out. I.e. "at 8pm you have all these shows starting".

In the UK we have only recently had multi-channel TV. When we didn't you could lay out the 3 (then 4 then 5) channels side by side on a page or two. Incidentally, only in the last 10? years have listings been available in anything but the two official TV guides.


"Following on from the comment about times in the UK. I think the American 30 minute thing has come about because from early on you had many channels and so needed to print TV guides laying all the channels out. I.e. "at 8pm you have all these shows starting". "

We have Dish network and the program guide will only display shows starting at the half hour, until the individual quarter hour has been passed. Shows that start 5 minutes after the hour are displyed in the next half hour's display section. (cumbersome language to describe a simple picture). In other words the program guide has difficulty displaying shows that are not started on at the half hour and of 30/60/90/120 minutes in length.


Yet Sky's programme guide manages fine with all the strange timings of British TV - because that's just the way our TV works.

New BBC shows intended for export are usually 40 minutes so they pad out to an hour with US adverts. ITV, which carries adverts but is regulated as to how many, makes 50 minute shows that pad to a US hour.

I wonder what happens to broadcast TV when ad-avoidance strategies become dominant. More product placement?


Chris and fellow readers,

I am part of a discussion group in SF and am responsible for an upcoming topic on next-generation TV programming (precisely what this blog entry is about).

Does anyone have good BOOK recommendations on this topic? I searched Amazon high and low and couldn't find anything.



Check out http://twominutes.tv/

They make two minute TV shows.


We are a creative group in Central Florida that has developed a concept site out of the idea (stemming back to 1998) that short video comedy sketches could be delivered on the web without having to be compiled into a 30-minute TV show.

It is found at http://www.swampwater.com


Very interesing site.

Infared Sauna Kid

interesting to see if since this article was written thing have changed on TV? Still seem pretty fixated by the 30min segments

landscaping trees

Really interesting, worth to read it.

xmas gifts

Very interesting review on TV.I was wondering the updation of tv.Very nice graph.I just wanted to say thanks for sharing such a great post here.Very useful and informative post thanks again for that.

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The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

Notes and sources for the book

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