Strip programming or stripping is a technique used for scheduling television and radio programming to ensure consistency and coherency. Television or radio programs of a particular style (such as a television series) are given a regular time slot during the week, so that it appears as a strip straight across the weekly schedule. For example, radio and television broadcasters may program a news program at rush hours every day, or at least every weekday.
Strip programming is used to deliver consistent content to targeted audiences. Broadcasters know or predict the times at which certain demographics will be listening to or watching their programs and play them at that time.
Strip programming is sometimes criticized as making programming too predictable, and reducing diversity and uniqueness.
Strip scheduling is commonly restricted to describing the airing of television shows that were weekly in their first run: The West Wing could be stripped but not Jeopardy!, as Jeopardy was originally intended to be run daily. However, it can also refer to shows in prime time that run daily, such as with the short-lived The Jay Leno Show in 2009 and 2010.
For much of the 1960s and into the early 1990s, stripping for syndication was one of, if not the primary profit component of the studio production model in American television. A show became far more profitable if it succeeded in getting three full U.S. seasons (about 75 episodes) or more, as then it was possible to strip it for fifteen weeks (15×5=75) before needing to repeat episodes. Once a series attained five seasons (which would push the show over the 100 episodes threshold), it would be a full six months before it would repeat. For Star Trek, in particular, this was relevant. Only due to an unprecedented letter-writing campaign was the show renewed for its third season, and it did not begin to attain wider popularity until appearing in syndication for a number of years. If it had failed to obtain a third season it would not have been syndicated, and its subsequent popularity and influence would likely not have occurred. Many other shows with lukewarm response in their initial runs became widely appreciated cult favorites as a result of syndication, or helped keep cultural memes associated with them far more widely known than if the shows had only been viewable during their initial timeframe.
Michael Grade was responsible for introducing stripped and stranded schedules to BBC television in his role as controller of BBC1: from 18 February 1985 onward the schedule has consisted entirely of half-hour or one-hour programmes starting on the hour, or half hour (the BBC channels do not carry spot advertising). For example, Grade's new schedule provided at 19:00 the Wogan chat show thrice weekly and two helpings of EastEnders and fixed the national news at 18:00 and 21:00, regional news at 18:30. Before this date, programmes would start at almost any time and programs could have different times on consecutive weeks or even days, for example:
- 17:40 60 Minutes (17:52 regional news, 18:15 national magazine)
- 18:40 Harty
- 19:05 Cliff!
- 20:05 Cockles
- 21:00 News
- 21:25 Whicker’s World
- 22:30 Sportsnight
Compare with a 2007 schedule for the same channel:
- 18:00 BBC News and Weather
- 18:30 Regional News Program
- 19:00 Watchdog
- 19:30 EastEnders
- 20:00 Holby City
- 21:00 Judge John Deed
- 22:00 BBC News
- 22:35 Comedy Drama
In many other countries, even new episodes of various series are aired every weekday. For example, if such a station gets the most recent season of a U.S. TV series, the episodes will air in this way for two or three weeks, after which they are replaced by another show in the same timeslot.
In Australia, Network Ten and its sister station, Eleven have stripped The Simpsons for many years, airing the show daily at 6:00 p.m., which is traditionally the news hour on rivals Seven Network and Nine Network. Despite some attempts to fill this slot with original programming, The Simpsons stripped at 6:00 p.m. remains a mainstay of Australian television.