In the UK, the word "repeat" refers only to a single episode; "rerun" or "rerunning" is the preferred term for an entire series/season. "Repeat" is also used to refer to programs shown less than a week after the original broadcast, before the next episode of the series.
No one anticipated the long life that a popular television series would eventually see in syndication, so most performers signed contracts that limited residual payments to about six repeats. After that, the actors received nothing and the production company would keep 100% of any income. This situation went unchanged until the mid-1970s, when contracts for new shows extended residual payments for the performers, regardless of the number of reruns.
Other TV listings services and publications, including local newspapers, would often indicate reruns as "(R)"; since the early-2000s, many listing services now only provide a notation only if an episode is new ("(N)"), with reruns getting no notation.
As in the U.S., fewer new episodes are made in summer. Until recently it was also common practice for the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 to repeat classic shows from their archives, but this has more or less dried up in favor of newer (and cheaper) formats like reality shows, except on the BBC where older BBC shows, especially sitcoms like Dad's Army and Fawlty Towers, are frequently repeated.
Syndication did not exist as such in Britain until the arrival of satellite, cable and later, from 1998 on, digital television, although it could be argued that many ITV programs up to the early 1990s, particularly imported programming was syndicated in the sense that each ITV region bought in some programs independently of the ITV Network, and in particular many programs out of prime time made by smaller ITV stations were "part-networked" where some regions would show them and others would not. Nowadays the UK has many channels (for example UKTV Gold) which repackage and rebroadcast "classic" programming from both sides of the Atlantic. Some of these channels, like their US counterparts, make commercial timing cuts; others get around this by running shows in longer time slots, and critics of timing cuts see no reason why all channels should not do the same.
Early on in the history of British television, agreements with the actors' union Equity and other trade bodies limited the number of times a single program could be broadcast, usually only twice, and these showings were limited to within a set time period such as five years. This was due to the unions' fear that the channels filling their schedules with repeats could put actors and other production staff out of work as fewer new shows would be made. It also had the unintentional side effect of causing many programs to be junked after their repeat rights had expired, as they were considered to be of no further use by the broadcasters. Although these agreements changed during the 1980s and beyond, it is still expensive to repeat archive television series on British terrestrial television, as new contracts have to be drawn up and payments made to the artists concerned. Repeats on multi-channel television are cheaper, as are re-showings of newer programs covered by less strict repeat clauses. However, programs are no longer destroyed, as the historical and cultural reasons for keeping them have now been seen, even if the programs have little or no repeat value.
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