ABC Still Excited About DVRs That Disable Fast Forward

from the bad,-bad-ideas dept

A few months ago, we wrote about how ABC was excitedly testing a new DVR technology that would prevent people from fast forwarding through commercials on their DVR. If this seems dumb and destined to fail, that’s because it’s dumb and destined to fail. You don’t compete with things like a fully functional DVR that has features people want by creating a crappy DVR that doesn’t have the features people want. That story got plenty of attention — which should have made its way back to ABC. But, if it did, the company is ignoring it. As reader Joey writes in to let us know, at ABC’s recent “upfronts” where it pitches its latest efforts to advertisers, it’s still excitedly pushing the idea of the fast-forward-disabled DVR (in the update at 4:34). The NY Times reporter claimed it was “a fancy way to combat DVR use.” Except, that it’s not. It’s a dumb way to combat DVR use because all it will do is anger a bunch of people and get them to go out and buy a DVR that doesn’t do that sort of thing.

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Companies: abc, disney

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Comments on “ABC Still Excited About DVRs That Disable Fast Forward”

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Me says:

Re: Re:

You’re exactly right. The article stated that they want to disable fast-forwarding on VOD programming, which is (supposedly) different from normal DVR operation. I’m not entirely sure how that’s supposed to “combat” DVR usage though, unless there’s commercials in the VOD content that are currently being fast-forwarded through. I didn’t think VOD had commercials though, since you have to pay for it. If you’re paying for it, and still get commercials, you are getting seriously ripped off.

claire rand says:

it will work just fine

make it a requirement?

they will just do what sky does in the uk.. some channels will only be available using this crippled dvr, encrypt the signal in some reasonably basic way and DMCA anyone who ‘hacks’ it.

ok will only work with some channels initially, but make this the standard box for abc on some premium service (make the box part of the sub like cable/sat do) and its in place. seriously hold back on the ‘no skip’ for a few months, maybe a year..

job done

some people will find a way to hack it, but most won’t, make the encryption updatable on the fly.

point being the coding doesn’t have to be good, just good enough to deal with 95% of the population, the other 5% are busy grabbing shows via torrents, forget them

Corman says:

Re: it will work just fine

Yeah, thats probably the best way to actually make viewers watch commercials, but what are they gonna do when no-one feels like playing their game and chooses to just stop watching that channel. I’d bet Dollars to donuts that if they try this, they will be seriously hurting for viewers. I don’t think they will ever make it stick on multiple channels. I’ll go dig out my damn VCR before I buy one of those boxes.

Nate (user link) says:


If they think people will by an inferior product that does less than others, they are stupid. Why would you get an “ABC” DVR when you can get a Tivo or whatever is offered by your cable/dish provider. I see what they want, as more and more people use DVRs, less people watch commercials, and they can’t charge as much for advertising. Well, I think they need to find a new approach to advertising, because taking your viewers a step backward in their viewing experiences is not going to go over well. If they actually try to pull this off, I will do as the other poster said and add them to my skipped channels.

Dwayne says:

Re: VOD not DVR

A lot of the Video on Demand channels are free!! You do not have to buy a DVR or ‘rent/subscribe’ channel listings. I have built my own using gbpvr and still check out the free Video on Demand offerings every once in a while just to see whats there. I like to skip commercials but more than willing to watch a few if content free and playable when I want.

Tony (user link) says:

Re: Ha!

“If they think people will by an inferior product that does less than others, they are stupid.”

Then how do you explain the success of companies like Bank of America?

For some reason, people buy “inferior products” all the time. They’re not stupid for expecting people to buy this – they’re being realistic, unfortunately.

Nate says:

Re: Re: Ha!

Yes, they may be banking on a select market that won’t realize that they are getting a piece of junk. But, once most of them get it home and realize that you can’t do the most basic DVR function… fast forward, they will bring it right back to the store. If someone kept it, it is already the same people that were probably watching the commercials… so no gain in viewers. Overall, it isn’t going to take off. Now, if they wanted to improve their ad revenues, they could try a different route. Like: Offer a free DVR, with no subscription fees. The DVR allows you to pause, fast forward, rewind, whatever. But, when you pause, it shows an ad, when you FF, you get a still image add banner on the top or bottom of the screen, etc… you see where I am going? But, to just remove functions that are available else where, you are not going to be successful in the long run.

Now, this is assuming that all it does is disable FF. If it is some special DVR that is needed to view certain “encoded” channels or shows/movies, then they could be more successful, as they will force people into it. But, it won’t be with out a struggle. You can’t have an nice feature that everyone is used to now, and then take it away and expect no one to care.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

I’ve had a PC based DVR connected to my living room TV until recently. I don’t really see the need to have recording capabilities anymore. Any show I watch I can get from bittorrent the next morning in at least 720p resolution with the commercials edited out. I can get my movies from Netflix in DVD or Blu-ray in a day or two. Once again, no interruptions and no distracting ads being flashed on the bottom. Plus, my wife can watch her shows such as Desperate Housewives directly from the broadcaster. I guess the only reason I’d want a DVR is to pause and fast-forward through live shows such as sporting events. Luckily, I don’t watch sports.

busy hands says:

Long live DVD decrypter & its ability to “remove” the fast forward block 🙂

I want a discount for having to sit thro Advert crap. Thank god we humans need to use the toilet, etc or i`d have slashed my wrists by now.

I didnt PAY for ADVERTS , i paid for the main film. Slysoft will see these muppets right 🙂 Ripp away i say

inc says:

Instead of trying to figure out way to fuck their consumers they should be figuring out ways to get more value to them. If people are fast forwarding through commercials it’s because no one wants to watch them. Why not put them on at the end of the show let those that actually want to watch them do so. How about making it more interactive where if you watched an ad you answer some question with the DVR and get a prize or a free sample of that product. Even if everyone gets a free product you know that your ad hit it’s mark.

They should also do away with raising the volume on commercials and lowering it during the show. It’s so annoying when a show goes to commercial and your ears start bleeding because the dude is screaming about some new medication we can’t live without.

(p.s. I patented that idea)

Nicholas Iler says:

Too little too late...

This is a great example of how some companies just don’t get it. They seem to be hiring morons as in the Monster Cable blog post.

If they had tested this DVR before the fully functional DVR exisited then of course it would be great. Like I have said before the Entertainment and Music industry need to wake up and smell the coffee. It is like convincing people to walk miles when they already know about buses.

Nitro says:


I love my DVR. It is a DVD recorder with a hard drive. Does all the same crap as any other DVR except I don’t pay a monthly fee for it. Even has an edit option that allows you to delete commercials, I mean scenes, before burning them to DVD. The only thing it lacks is a second tuner, but all I have to do to defeat that is switch to the TV. It allows you to watch movies while something is recording to the hard drive or even watch a recording from the hard drive while something is in the process of recording to the hard drive. Pretty much what those monthly fee DVR’s do. It even has a digital tuner, of course it only display standard definition, but it does upconvert DVD’s to 1080p. Don’t matter much as I don’t have an HD TV yet. Anyways… I have gotten partially off subject, so I with this now.

Bob says:

Railing against this comment from ABC is silly and immature. ABC is not suggesting, from what I read in the link, that their regularly scheduled programming slots be fast-forward disabled for DVR. They are proposing a “premium service” for free. You would be able to watch a show out of schedule anytime you want without recording it to your DVR. The only payment you give is that you don’t fast-forward through the commercials.

I see a lot of lip-service given around here to “changing business models” This seems like a good change. How do you expect broadcast companies to make any money if they are not allowed to sell advertising?

If the argument is that all the shows on broadcast TV suck, then just don’t watch, fast-forward or not.

I rarely watch commercials because I only watch DVR’d shows. If I had to watch a show with this proposed service, I would consider it a fair trade-off for not recording it in the first place.

I have noticed lately that the commercials are getting more entertaining. Not quite destination entertainment, but I will occasionally stop and watch a commercial if I see an interesting blip while FF.

I just wish when this type of conversation happens here that the “TV sucks” and “Gimme Free or Gimme Death” camps could think before they type. There are worse things then Broadcast Television and Watching Commercials. Also paying for cable doesn’t mean you paid for broadcast TV. It is still free over rabbit ears.

John (profile) says:


Sarcasm alert:

I hear that ABC is going to create a new “jeans glue” system where people are *forced* to remain seated when commercials come on. As soon a commercial comes on, the glue is activated and the person is unable to stand up.
After all, advertisers have long known that people get up and go to the bathroom or get a snack when the commercials come on.
Now, people can’t get up: they’ll be forced to watch commercials! hahahahahaha!

(sarcasm off)

As an aside, why is there such a push to “force” people to do something? Why do so many companies take the “stick” approach instead of the “carrot” approach? Instead of forcing people to watch commercials, how about making commercials that people willing *want* to watch?

And don’t tell me that advertisers aren’t creative enough to do this. (Personally, I think they’re too lazy to come up with anything better than “Beer, please drink it”.)

A show of hands: how many people love the “World’s Best Commercials” or “World’s Sexiest Commercials” TV shows? We’re spending an entire hour watching commercials! Doesn’t that tell the network (and advertisers) than people WILL watch commercials, as long as the commercial is worth watching?

Then again, like so many things in life, it’s easier to fix the symptom (“people aren’t watching commercials so let’s disable the fast forward control”) than it is to fix the underlying reasons (“let’s look at WHY aren’t people watching commercials”).

Dan (profile) says:

do some marketing

What these pinheads with marketing degrees don’t get? It is not about your piece of the pie, it is about making the pie bigger. Maybe if they got out of the office and did a little number based research they would find out WHAT COMMERCIALS STOP THAT FAST FORWARD IN ITS TRACKS? I find myself stopping and rewinding to watch some commercials because I caught something in the FF that was interesting.

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