(Mis)Uses of Technology

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
commercials, dvrs, fast forward

Companies:
abc, cox



Dear ABC, You Don't Compete With TiVo By Making A Product Worse

from the just-a-suggestion dept

About a year and a half ago, an executive at Disney-owned ABC-TV talked about how the network was experimenting with ways to block people from fast forwarding through commercials. The exec in question even claimed that commercial-skipping wasn't even a very important feature for most DVR-owners. Despite the widespread criticism of this statement, it appears that ABC is now preparing to test that theory. In association with cable company Cox, it's testing a new video-on-demand feature that won't let viewers fast forward through commercials. We'll be the first to say it: this is dumb. While it may make a few more people watch commercials, it won't make them happy about it. And, given just how many other options there are these days, the end result might be that people just choose not to watch such ABC programming at all, let alone the commercials.

Yet various ABC executives seem to think that by offering this product, they can stop people from buying DVRs. Anne Sweeney, the president of the Disney-ABC television group, claims: "You don't need TiVo if you have fast-forward-disabled video on demand. It gives you the same opportunity to catch up to your favorite shows." Not quite. First of all, you're limited to shows on ABC. Second, who knows if the additional features are as useful. Finally, one of the nice things about TiVo (oh, right!) is that it lets you watch a 30-minute show in 22-minutes, since you can skip the commercials (whoops). So, yes, many people will still want a TiVo because ABC is forcing the fast forward option to be disabled.

Then there's Ray Cole, who owns some ABC affiliates. He says: "As network and affiliates, we both have an interest in slowing down the explosive growth of DVRs. This is about combating DVRs. As we developed this at every stage, there was an agreement that however we put this together, disabling the fast-forward function was key." I'm curious as to how Mr. Cole thinks offering a product that does much less and deliberately takes away a key feature will "slow down" the "explosive growth of DVRs." You don't compete by offering a worse product. You compete by offering a better product. Taking away one of the key selling points of a product is not exactly a major selling point.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2008 @ 12:17pm

    Corporate fudge monkeys. People don't want to watch commercials because 90% of them suck. It's time to stop grasping for top dollar and get a review panel of target demographic people for your channel and let them yea or nay what commercials get put on. Reject advertising that's utterly stupid, and put on better advertising that doesn't make people want to fast forward them as quickly as possible.

    Let me tell you, I have a DVR, and sometimes I stop to look at commercials such as "Price Line Negotiator", "Blizzard Night Elf Mohawk", and "eSurance - the regular characters in action sequences - not that terrible customer gets turned into a toon crap". But stupid ones like the "starter family Lean Pockets" get an immediate pass.

    Stop being lazy and milking the commercial cash cow, accepting anything that passes FCC codes. Get a committee of target demographic people and let them yea or nay various commercials. Start making ad agencies earn their buck on more than just Superbowl ads.

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