Once Again: DVRs Not Killing TV, But Helping It

from the think-this-through-a-bit dept

It’s becoming almost comical how often this happens: a new technology comes along for consuming/watching/listening/distributing some sort of entertainment content, and the industry freaks out. The technology is going to destroy the industry, and laws must be put in place, royalties must be paid, technology must be crippled, etc. And yet… the impending doomsday scenario never shows up. The player piano did not kill the sheet music market. The gramophone did not kill live concerts. The VCR did not kill the movie industry. And, here we are, with TV folks finally realizing that the DVR is not killing TV, but actually helping it. Basically, lots of people still watch ads, even if they’re watching a time-delayed program. What’s funny is that throughout the article you have execs insisting that this was a shock to everyone and no one could have predicted it. Except, of course, we wrote about the same basic thing three and a half years ago. But no one listens to us.

The article doesn’t even mention the biggest benefit to DVRs — even beyond the fact that people watching them still watch commercials: that it allows people to become more connected to certain shows, since they’re less likely to ever miss an episode. That makes them more likely to watch those shows regularly (with or without the commercials). If someone can’t keep up otherwise, they’ll just let the show go entirely.

The other amusing finding in the article is that NBC’s attempt to “DVR-proof” itself by moving Jay Leno to 10pm (on the theory that more people would watch it live when they couldn’t fast forward through the ads) has totally backfired. That’s because it also means that if people miss the show, they don’t go back and watch it days later (who wants to watch stale jokes?) — so fewer ads get watched in the long run (compared to a show that would be recorded and watched later). Oops. In the meantime, can we go back to those TV execs who were threatening to sue TiVo just a few years ago, and ask for an apology for wasting everyone’s time?

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Comments on “Once Again: DVRs Not Killing TV, But Helping It”

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Anonymous Coward says:

I watch more TV since getting a DVR, just on my own schedule. Completely agree with this article. My wife and I skip most of the commercials but we do watch some. I would watch almost zero TV if it was not for the DVR. Given everyone’s busy schedules time shifting TV shows is the only way to find the time to watch what I want to watch.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

can we go back to those TV execs who were threatening to sue TiVo just a few years ago, and ask for an apology

Considering the MPAA has not acknowledged that its members have greatly benefited from the VCR, I think you’re in for a long wait.

The first rule of the copyright maximalist is to never concede any point. No matter how much evidence there is to the contrary.

senshikaze (profile) says:

funnily enough, I don’t use a DVR and I promise you advertisers make near $0 off me, much less than most people who do use a DVR. Buying something just because it is on tv and has an actor/actress or what not doesn’t make any sense to me. As much as I enjoy the geico commercials, I don’t use them. Probably never will.
Put that in a TV exec’s spreadsheet.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

But the fact that you know who Geico is, and what they sell, pretty much shows that advertising works. A lot of ads are just to get your name out there. So when you eventually do go out looking for a product, you think “Hey, Company X sells the widgets I need. Saw it on a commercial”, or if your bud asks “Know anyone that sells widgets?” you’re more likely to have Company X on the mind.

R. Miles (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

But the fact that you know who Geico is, and what they sell, pretty much shows that advertising works.
Define “works”. To me, these GEICO commercials remind me of those brats who scream at the checkout line for a candy bar. Sure, it “works” because volume is impossible to ignore.

Plop, plop. Fizz, fizz. See? I’m sure many will know what this refers to, but those who weren’t bombarded with these “one showing per every 10 minutes” ads will have no clue.

The DVR’s greatest asset is the fast forward button, when watching an entertaining ad once or twice is now boring and we’ll quickly skip it for the next shiny one, if at all.

I’m still waiting for someone to tell me that last Kia ad was the best ever made. *yawn* And how many car commercials do we get per night? Couldn’t tell you. I skip them. And *lots* of them.

Maybe it’s about time these businesses focus in spending their money on something the majority of us aren’t going to skip.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

In my case, I’m more likely to think ‘Gee, Geico can afford a crazy amount of advertising… they must charge their customers more to pay for that and since they advertise constantly everywhere they are clearly after the folks who are willing change insurance companies on a whim, thier whole business is built on attrition.’ No good reason to choose Geico for insurance. So while Geico might come to mind as an insurance company their constant advertising will keep me away. Counterintuitive but true.

zcat (profile) says:

I don’t have a DVR, and I watch almost no TV at all.

I’d almost certainly watch more if I had a DVR, since there’s a lot of stuff I’d actually like to watch and for various reasons it’s just not convenient to watch it at the time it’s broadcast. And TVNZ’s on-demand site is basically horrible, can’t download so the quality is limited to what can stream, and they force you to watch ads (I’m sure more fewquently than the broadcast ones) plus I pay for bandwidth so it’s not ‘free’ for me at all. Basically it sucks on every level.

W4RM4N (profile) says:


I noticed a tactic some networks are using. They end their show 1 minute later (for example House on Fox). How does this affect anything? Lets say you record house at 9pm then want to record two shows at 10pm. Well now you have THREE shows at 10pm (since house records till 10:01) and the DVR will not record one of the 10pm shows. Slick – huh?

Migzy says:

Re: Tactics

And a number of DVRs have a feature called clipping to get around this very issue. If a show runs a few mins past the start time of another show, it will clip the new show rather than not recording the new show. My motorola box was just updated with said feature. Although that said my old box recently lost a tuner so this feature is of little use to me at the moment.

iamtheky (profile) says:

I would rather know how many times the rewind button is pressed in the 2-3 minutes following a commercial. I am guessing people still instinctively get up and do something else during the commercials, like an expected intermission. If they then rewind too far and catch the ass-end of the ad does it count. Exactly how much of an ad has to be consumed for Nielsen to count it.

Big Mook (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You’ve got it bass-ackwards. You pause live TV when the commercials start, go take your pee break, get a fresh drink, whatever, then FF through the ads when you get back. It always feels better to FF through than to RW back to the restart of your show, and you don’t spoil the results of the next person kicked off the biggest loser.

Anonymous Coward says:

46% watch the ads… and 54% done. Now, out of that 46%, how many of them get up and go for a pee, look for something to munch, etc?

First thing I did when I got a PVR was learn how to jump commercials. Heck, even now, if I want to watch an hour long show “live”, I start it records and then show up 15 minutes later to start watching. So then I only have to spend 45 minutes to watch an hour, commercial free.

Depending on learned behavior is pretty much a losing battle.

Anonymous Coward says:

“…a new technology comes along for consuming/watching/listening/distributing some sort of entertainment content, and the industry freaks out…”

yup, we all know how much the computer destroyed calculator sales.

And the TV destroyed theater sales

And the Radio destroyed CD sales

and of course the internet destroyed ALL SALES

These companies are just paranoid and un-inventive when it comes to business models

rollinginsanity says:

DVR’s are great. I don’t have to stay up late to watch shows. I wouldn’t watch them anyway, and I do leave the ads running, because I’m lazy (which is why so many other people just watch the ads, I bet ya!). Also, they’re a good time to get up and do something else or let your mind drift, which is what happened when they were on non-recorded TV anyway. I think the MPAA and other organisations are only there to serve to maximize profits for the movie/music industry. I think they’re more of a hindrance then a success in this role. Everyone would be happier without them.

Rekrul says:

Network TV has gotten to the point where I refuse to watch any new shows. What’s the point, they’re all going to get cancelled on a cliffhanger that will never be resolved.

Flashforward has an interesting premise and looks like a show I’d like. I haven’t watched a single episode of it. Why? Because I know they’ll end the season on a big cliffhanger, then the network will keep fans hanging for 2-3 months until they finally announce that it’s been cancelled.

Why bother?

Mikecancook (profile) says:

Commercials as Content

What’s that thing that Mike always says, advertising is content? Or content is advertising? However it goes…

The nice thing about watching a recorded program on your DVR is that you can skip past the ANNOYING commercials. I think its recognition that most commercials are crap and network execs know this when they complain that no one will watch commercials.

When there are good commercials, advertisements for something I’m interested in or anything of value, I do watch those commercials. Even to the point that I’ll rewind them to watch them again.

Who wants to watch crappy commercials? Or the same commercials every commercial break? Am I going to skip over these? Of course! This is a no brainer.

Mike says:

Along the lines of W4RM4N’s point about the 31- or 61-minute show:

Some channels flat-out lie about show timing. Comedy Central started broadcasting Futurama delayed by about 4 minutes, so that it might start at 4:04 and end at 4:34. But the published time is 4:00-4:30, so my Tivo records all but the ending of the show. I’ve tried to think of a benign reason why they do this, but it doesn’t really matter, because the result in my case is that I no longer watch Futurama on Comedy Central.

At least in the 31- or 61-minute case, the extra minute is typically a silly scene that’s not essential to the plot. But when the syndicating network ham-handedly chops off a good chunk of the show, you’re better off not watching any of it.

Almost Anonymous (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’ve tried to think of a benign reason why they do this, but it doesn’t really matter, because the result in my case is that I no longer watch Futurama on Comedy Central.

Unless you’ve found a different channel to watch Futurama on, I’d say this is kinda drastic. Tivo has options to allow for both pre- and post- recording of up to 5 minutes or so of the actual scheduled time. No biggie.

Gene Cavanaugh (profile) says:

Fighting DVRs

I agree that the motives behind “Big E” fighting DVRs (and almost anything else that would help them) are likely not altruistic; but decaying away in front of a TV, etc., is causing the US to get fat, and costing us dearly – we used to be among the tallest, fittest, most capable people on earth – that is all going away; several nations are now taller, fitter, and generally more capable (though for now we have inertia on our side; but we are losing that). At least, by deemphasizing enterformercial stuff, they are tending to make us a little less slothful (unintentional, granted)

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