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.

Filed Under: commercials, dvrs, fast forward
Companies: abc, cox

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  1. identicon
    pv, 26 Feb 2008 @ 10:20pm

    I once worked for a company that measured TV audience figures for advertisers. I seem to remember they did a study on people watching ads on VCRs on fast-forward, found they did take in much of it, and then factored that in to the figures.

    I live in the UK, but lived in the US for years, and my God, your ads are annoying! Don't mean to offend anyone, but they are much crappier than ours (I don't find UK ads much of a problem, they're sometimes quite witty) and certainly they go on for 10 times as long.

    I also notice that you _used_ to have worse TV than we do (or at least, much blander), but since the advent of the likes of HBO the best US stuff is actually way better than ours (Curb Your Enthusiasm vs Little Britain - no contest), from which I conclude that dependency on advertisers has a bad effect on US television quality.

    What do people think of ad-blocker plug-ins on browsers? On reflection I decided not to use one, 'cos I don't want it to end up where decent sites are all subscription only.

    And surely there are only 3 alternatives for TV - ads, subscription fees, or a BBC type system, with a compulsory subscription fee for everyone? No amount of complaining about 'failing business models' is going to change that, surely?

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