This is the first of a two-part seminar session.

Due to recent changes to the broadcasting industry and the emerging digital media technologies, which have “disturbed” the traditional economic models that supported the media industry for the last decade, viewers have migrated from traditional media outlets to new digital ones, causing a severe drop in media organizations’ revenue. Therefore competition for viewers’ eye balls has intensified and increased dramatically in recent years, new economic models are introduced and others are still being developed. Most media organizations have felt the pinch and have been forced to restructure their operations to try to attract the maximum number of viewers, keep their attention for as long a time as possible and make the most revenue possible from that time of focus.

The methodology we use in our research is to combine both academic work and practitioners’ experiences in order to build an innovative model for optimizing the programmes grid and maximizing viewership.  The literature has reported very little evidence that analytical and computational approaches are being used in modeling and optimizing the programme schedule. However, our research work extends Horen’s (1980) and Kelton and Schneider’s (1998) approaches by formulating an integer programming optimization model that places programmes in their potential time slots where they get optimum ratings considering the limitations of the available resources.

In building and solving our model, we have completed an extensive literature review, conducted media industry experts’ interviews, conducted focus groups discussions, used viewership ratings and demonstrated the model by plugging in a real case scenario for a television station schedule in the Middle East. The results indicate a 60% potential increase in viewership from using our model. Our research introduces a new concept of programme scheduling, accounts for different characteristics of programmes such as the type and quality of the programme and has put both viewers and media practitioners in the heart of schedule building.

The problem has been formulated as an integer program, and the software package used to solve the problem gives us the ability to solve large scale optimization models with thousands of variables and constraints. This will certainly help media planners and decision makers to plan for months ahead, if not years. Our research paper also reflects the importance of other functions within media organizations in order to be able to produce, place and promote the right portfolio of programmes and to build programme archives.

Several challenges have been resolved in our work, but other challenges still need further investigation. Our model has succeeded in distributing programmes efficiently and effectively in the week’s schedule and managing, in concept, to increase viewership. However, the model is still in its conception phase and needs further enhancement which will be the core of our future work.

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