(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
    Jason, 26 Feb 2008 @ 7:45am

    There are some comments that make me wonder...

    I think there are some people that just fast-forward, or don't bother with that because they have to sit through it, and still see the commercials, even if they don't actually watch them. Wrong. I don't know if I can explain how great Tivo is. My Tivo is an old one, a Series II and only a single tuner. The 30-second skip was a hack for the remote that wasn't included in the manual, but obviously programmed in by the manufacturer secretly because they didn't want to scare The Man. Well, The Man's antiquated business model has failed just fine by itself, thank you.

    Select-Play-Select-3-0-Select. Memorize it, Tivo owners. That will make your forward skip button into a 30 second skip button, at least on the old Tivos. A commercial break comes on, 4 quick button pushes, and you're golden. I honestly don't know if that works on the new Tivos, or if they already have a button for it. They should. By the way, you'll have to reenter that code if the power goes out to the box, so write it down.

    As for Comcast DVR remotes, I was a cable guy until two years ago, and this remote hack worked then. My boss said to keep it secret, because there was talk of a lawsuit if we started programming it for customers. I usually did, and told them they really, really, really might want to try out the A button after I left. Cable-hold the setup button-994-setup-00173-A. This will make your A button the 30-second skip button, so you could pick another convenient button there if you want to. The problem is, Motorola and the other companies made several Comcast DVRs with different software, so this hack only worked about half the time. It's worth a shot, though.

    Just google "Comcast remote hacks" or find the Tivo forums, because this stuff is very public, now.

    There is no reason to not have a DVR, whether it be Tivo or Comcast or even dish. YOU NEVER HAVE TO WATCH COMMERCIALS AGAIN, and you shave 16 minutes off of every hour you watch, and more with most sports. F commercials. F on-demand. F Amazon-on-demand on Tivo for 6 bucks a movie. F Comcast and all the others for every thing they do to screw their customers. F the antiquated business models just there to get your money. Think for yourself. Question authority.

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