What Is TV Airtime?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Occasionally, regularly scheduled television programming will be interrupted for significant press conferences, breaking news, or major political events.
Occasionally, regularly scheduled television programming will be interrupted for significant press conferences, breaking news, or major political events.

Television (TV) airtime is time during a television broadcast that can be allotted to original programming, syndicated content, advertising, emergency announcements, and other topics. Television networks and stations have their own TV airtime schedules to determine what should be aired and when. A number of considerations can play a role in television scheduling, ranging from content restrictions to wanting to capitalize on certain audiences. Schedules are usually available in advance to allow viewers to make plans for television programs they want to see.

TV airtime is time during a television broadcast that can be devoted to original programming.
TV airtime is time during a television broadcast that can be devoted to original programming.

During the hours a television station broadcasts, it needs to have content continuously scheduled to avoid dead air, where nothing runs and viewers receive static at home. Some stations run 24 hours and must provide constant content, while others may shut down in the early hours of the morning. The TV airtime schedule can include a broad mixture of items, depending on the type of content the station wants to run. Scheduling must consider who is viewing and when, and which kinds of audiences the station plans to reach.

Portions of TV airtime might be devoted to weather reports during severe storms.
Portions of TV airtime might be devoted to weather reports during severe storms.

In some regions, restrictions on type of content limit the times when a station can broadcast explicit content, which may be relegated to late hours of the schedule. The prime time hours in the evening are often taken up with major television shows, although a station may interrupt for critical news broadcasts and other materials. As stations structure their schedules, they may also create advertising slots. Advertisers can buy TV airtime to run promotions for their products.

Costs for advertising slots depend on the length of the slot, the time, and other factors. Airing during prime time can be expensive, especially during a season finale or opener when viewers will turn out in record numbers for the broadcast. Other slots are less expensive and less competitive, and may allow advertisers to reach television audiences for a fraction of the costs. Major sporting events and other significant programming can cause a dramatic increase in the cost of TV airtime.

Regional laws may require stations to break into their TV airtime for emergency broadcasts. These typically contain critical health and safety information that the government wants to distribute to as many people as possible. Other stations may interrupt regular programming for significant press conferences, breaking news, and major political events, as their customers may expect coverage. In the United States, for example, multiple stations air the annual State of the Union address for the benefit of audiences.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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    • Occasionally, regularly scheduled television programming will be interrupted for significant press conferences, breaking news, or major political events.
      By: picsfive
      Occasionally, regularly scheduled television programming will be interrupted for significant press conferences, breaking news, or major political events.
    • TV airtime is time during a television broadcast that can be devoted to original programming.
      By: itestro
      TV airtime is time during a television broadcast that can be devoted to original programming.
    • Portions of TV airtime might be devoted to weather reports during severe storms.
      By: Innovated Captures
      Portions of TV airtime might be devoted to weather reports during severe storms.