Scheduling TV programs is geared toward reaching a target audience to garner ratings that generate revenue from advertising sales. Major factors in scheduling include marketing agreements with advertisers to target their demographic as well as programming strategies to generate and maintain the highest market share possible.
Because television shows succeed or fail according to advertising revenue, producers develop and market shows that appeal to wide demographic bases – men ages 18-49, teenagers or thirty-something women, for example – to attract advertisers with the shows' market shares. The bigger market a show has, the more producers can charge advertisers to run commercials. For instance, when a TV show wins 30 Nielsen national ratings points, advertisers buy airtime knowing that approximately 30 million TV sets are tuned in.
To increase and maintain viewership, producers and schedulers use a variety of programming strategies. One is "stacking," where networks schedule a slate of shows that appeal to the same demographic on the same night in hopes of keeping viewers from changing channels. Another strategy is "hammocking," where a weaker or new show is scheduled between two more popular shows. "Hotswitching," or eliminating commercial breaks between shows, and "cross-programming," where the storyline from one show continues in a different show, are two more strategies to discourage viewers from channel surfing.