by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
dvr, dvr-proof, live content, watercooler

How Would You DVR-Proof TV Shows?

from the quick-patent-the-idea... dept

Aaron deOliveira writes in to point us to the not-particularly-surprising news that Sunday Night Football is the least DVR'd show on television, with only 1% of viewers watching it on a DVR. It's not surprising, mainly because it's a live sporting event, and there's added value in knowing what happens as soon as it happens, and being a part of the broader experience of a live sporting event. However, Aaron also posits a second idea why certain television shows might be somewhat "DVR-proof," noting that certain shows that have a cultural following have a "watercooler effect" that makes people want to watch it as soon as it airs to make sure they can take part in the conversation the next day. Effectively, those shows, whether "live" or not, have extra value in being watched live (or close to live). Of course, making sure your show is watercooler conversation material isn't always so easy.

Then again... perhaps the answer is that you shouldn't want to DVR-proof your TV shows. A separate study is finding that DVRs can actually help increase viewership of television programming, since it allows people to have the show fit their own schedule. This shouldn't actually be a surprise -- but to network execs who fear time shifting, it's an important concept to repeat.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Fsm, Jun 11th, 2008 @ 9:24pm

    How Would You DVR-Proof TV Shows?

    I wouldn't.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Gary, Jun 11th, 2008 @ 9:31pm

    How Would You DVR-Proof TV Shows?

    Lets not and say we did.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    John Duncan Yoyo, Jun 11th, 2008 @ 10:23pm

    Release them on Beta tapes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Charles White - Dallas, Jun 11th, 2008 @ 11:08pm

    I fail to see the relevance of this article in relationship to technology. You used a misleading storyline to get people to click. What a waste.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    Matt Borgard (profile), Jun 11th, 2008 @ 11:33pm


    Not sure I agree with the premise. LOST is generally held up as an example of a watercooler show, but it's also one of the most DVR'd shows on television.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Brandon, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 12:01am

    Sports are a bit of a "now" event - the information gets stale quickly. And with sports, once you know the winner most times the desire to watch the entire game is greatly reduced.

    You're far more likely to "accidentally" get a spoiler about sports than to run into someone in the middle of the street screaming "OMG Hurley's dead!!" on the way to work.

    So... to DVR-proof your show, either make it with content that will go stale quickly or be highly-talked-about, fill it with already-stale content (last year's American Idol), or just plain have it suck so nobody wants to watch it anyway.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    neil, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 12:07am

    increased viewership is only good if viewers see adds. and more importantly act on the messages in the adds.

    if the entire planet was watching it whould be useless unless you can manipulate them into a directed action.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 12:17am

    That same way you VCR proof TV shows.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Paul, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 12:40am

    Shift workers?

    There is a significant proportion of the population that, for various reasons, are unable to watch their pick of content as it is broadcast. Do the broadcasters want to cut of this group. Is it fair to penalise people for not being able to watch live?

    Why penalise people for not wanting to view a broadcast live? I regularly record things to watch when I choose because the broadcast schedule does not suite my timing. I value these and would be extremely annoyed if I was barred from watching them purely because the schedule does not suite my lifestyle.

    With today's technology the broadcasters need to find a way to work with it, not against it - Think RIAA (a dying entity in its death throws due to its stubborn refusal to wake up to the real markets needs).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Mr. Blankpage, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 1:58am

    Why bother?

    The networks have made most of their programs dvr proof long ago. There isn't a thing worth watching.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    g brigden, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 2:26am

    UK wins :P

    time shifting with dvr is important, esp if there are more than one prog your wish to view.

    In the UK Virgin media has recognised this and actually store a large number of programmes in its' "catch up" feature. This takes the last 7 days programmes and allows you to watch them at any time you like, and they even remove the ads :D

    They advertise this service as their USP. If a UK cable company feels there is value to this, why not in the states?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    a leash and collar, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 3:19am

    Lead me around

    I just about stopped watching TV many years ago. There something overtly manipulative about the scheduling changes. Moving one TV show to lead into another, bolstering rating on a lackluster evening, or some other big brother type control of the masses. Big TV doesn't want time shifting because it removes their control tools. If everybody gets DVR's then they may be forced to *gasp* provide quality original content that viewers can embrace.
    Anyway that's my two cents worth. Nobody will be leading me around by a TV schedule. I'm doing just fine even without a DVR.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Brad Eleven, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 4:13am


    "increased viewership is only good if viewers see ads."

    Right, but for a long-running series, the more people get into the show, the more likely it is that they'll see an advertisement.

    "if the entire planet was watching it whould be useless unless you can manipulate them into a directed action."

    Correct, but advertising is a game of exposure, i.e., it's all about broadcasting. Consider the original meaning of the word, to scatter seed. Advertising campaigns--another word for battle--are all about infiltration over a protracted time period.

    I do agree that this isn't really a Techdirt-worthy topic.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 4:58am

    Why DVR proof....

    The real issue isn't people DVR'ing shows, it's skipping the commercial because they've recoreded them on their DVR. Simply come up with a way that make commercials actually show up while fast forwarding, no sound is necessary, just use visuals to make customers intrigued in your product, now i realize this might be then putting the pressure on the advertising folks on actually creating interesting and creative content, but it would work far better in my book, the main reason i hate commercials is the lame acting in them and the annoying idea that i need some kind of acted out little sketch to make me want to buy a product, show me your product, show me what it can do and then maybe i'll buy it. If your commercial is retarded i will assume your product is and never buy it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 5:19am

    More product placement less commercials

    Take out commercials altogether. Place products in the show so they can't be FF with a DVR. They should get higher revenue in the beginning because everytime the show is shown their product will be seen. It may hurt rerun stations but I think most of their viewers just need something to watch anyway and won't DVR it. (If you watch Rocky cut and spread out over 5 hours on a rerun channel, you're not worried about time). Another option is to actually have interesting commericals that tie into the show (LOST) or that you have a local host with news updates, weather, etc during breaks. They can be as interesting as the show. Even without DVR, people went to the bathroom or kitchen anyway so the problems isn't new.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 6:26am

    i would always....

    watch like 2 or 3 shows at once and switch between them when each went to commercial. DVR just gives me a new way to get around commercials. The simple fact that people don't want to watch commercials should tell these people something. But since when do they actually listen to their customers anyway....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Matt, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 6:40am

    Re: Why bother?

    I would agree that all new content is just HORRIBLE, however there are still MANY great oldies around that are worth watching, and they throw in all this dang comercials with em! I record 4 episodes a day of "Hogan's Heros" And if i have the night off i'll sit and watch em, The issue for me is that its STUIPD to tell people that they can't timeshift over the comercials, because if a comercial comes on, how many people just flip the channel. Either way the people don't watch the comercial, PLUS they are giving their ratings to another company while those comercials are on.....If I can timeshift, i'll stay on your channel the whole time, if not, then i'll flip and watch something else... maybe get interested in it and just watch the other show

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Yo Mamma, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 7:10am

    Overlay or Target

    I hate commercials, and advertising in general - so I find two shows that I want to watch and press "last" as in "last channel" to go back and forth when a commercial comes on. Then I get pissed when they both show commercials at the same time.

    Not that I'd want to help advertisers, but if they really want to force us to watch commercials, overlay their stuff on the screen while the "real" show is playing. Something like "...brought to you by ____."

    However, the better solution is to target their advertising. We have the technology now to enable us to opt-out of having to view commercials... or potentially opt-in by providing a simple survey and ask us what type of products we'd be interested in.

    I may be interested in seeing a car commercial if I'm thinking about buying one, but if not - then why am I forced to watch it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Joseph Durnal, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 7:27am


    I almost always set Monday night football and Sunday night football to record, mostly, because I can never be sure I'll be there for the beginning and I don't want to miss anything if I'm going to sit down and watch it that night. I fast forward the commercials, not really because I don't want to watch them, but because I would rather get to bed at a reasonable hour. I normally end up catching up to real time about half time. If I don't watch it the same night, it will probably just get deleted because I'll know the score and have seen the best plays already.

    So, is what I'm doing wrong? Would the NFL and the networks prefer that I just not watch the first half of the game, and probably, not the 2nd half either (nothing sucks worse than catching a 14 - 21 game at halftime and neither team scores in the 2nd half).

    Joseph Durnal

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Jim, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 7:53am

    Yeah right

    Do you want me to stop paying my Cable bill all together?
    If I could not record my shows I would simply get the torrent (download) or find another source. At that point the cable company is just waste of my money.
    The way the copyright laws are going and the industries attempts to control the content I am on the verge of giving up cable all together and just go with internet supplied TV programing - no money to cable company, no more watching ads, tough crackers for them being to frig'n greedy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    bshock, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 8:17am

    You're still watching network tv?

    You and your family deserve to be sterilized. You -- out of the gene pool!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Ima Fish, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 8:26am

    I must be weird, because the one show I consistently DVR is football. I pause it when it starts and then go about my business. After a half an hour or so I start watching and skipping through the commercials and the BS. I do the same thing for the second half. By the end I'm watching it in real time. I also can re-watch any play I want.

    There's also the fact that football is about three hours long. With a DVR I can take a break go and play with my kids or mow the lawn without missing anything.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Jason, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 9:13am


    @Charles White
    The title isn't misleading. Mr. Masnick didn't call it "How to DVR-proof..", he posed the question, "How would you?" and then elaborated on a content-based approach and the resulting implications.
    The relevance is the two-way cultural impact of DVR technology. The technology has changed how people view, and the article speculates on the impact of that change on how TV is produced.
    Say you don't like it, fine. Don't say it was dishonest or you're guilty of the same kind of overkill you're complaining about.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 9:14am

    DVR sports - SURE!

    I watch live sporting events on DVR (Tivo). For a typical US NFL footbal game, I start watching abotu 1 hour past actual kickoff.

    That way, I can FF through boring commercials. Note I said "boring"... we often replay cute or interesting ads.

    We "catch up to realtime" near the end of the game.

    Of course, we don't answer the phone, or surf the net, during that first hour.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Wayne: BC Boy, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 10:20am

    Commercials are useless and thing of the past

    Most people i know up here in canada can't be bothered with tv anymore. Most of it sucks and the rest is just on at bad times. The new age is here that's a fact. People aren't sitting around the tv anymore like when i was a kid. Commercials have never made me buy anything. sure i've seen the odd new product that i might try but commercials isn't usually the first place i see it. Our of ever hour tv show it's 18 minutes of commercials, that's just to much time wasted in my books. Me i'm on the download bandwagon. Shows need to drop commercials and just go with a sponsor model. Give us our full or almost full 30 minutes with a break in the middle for bathroom and drinks where the sponsor get's to say something. Most of us won't pay attention to what he's saying beyone the fact that it's the show's sponser. This will force them to creat better shows for companies to sponsor.

    Evolve or Die!!!! It's pretty simple!!! when those high paid executives realize that things will get better, they all want their high salaries to continue and the companies have to make money for that.

    Well i could go on but i'm sure most of you by now have gotten my 2 cents worth.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. icon
    Paul (profile), Jun 12th, 2008 @ 10:39am


    What are the chances you'll accidentally run into a commenter screaming "OMG Hurley's dead!!"? =P

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    Ima Fish, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 10:57am

    Re: Commercials are useless and thing of the past

    Agreed. Either ads have got to become entertaining or shows will have to be sponsored but uninterrupted. For example, a sitcom could be sponsored by Coke and the product could be featured throughout.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    Yeah another AC, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 11:32am

    Product Placement

    I am perfectly OK with product placement, actually it kind of irritates me when they have the word BEER taped over a Budweiser label or when phantom brands are used. I find it to be distracting. If done right, I would think product placement would be the only way to go as it could be almost subliminal and if you see a character you identify with using or consuming a particular product, you may be likely to give it a try.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    rubberman, Jun 12th, 2008 @ 3:22pm

    Time-shifting vs. adv viewing

    Actually, I think that what bothers network execs the most about DVR time-shifting isn't the time-shifting per se, but the fact that it allows viewers to skip past the ads that provide them their income. Hopefully, this will encourage the advertisers to develop ads that are "fun" to watch and keep the viewers' eyeballs on them, instead of being so insipid that people just want to skip them. When I was in college (1960's), most of us skipped the shows and watched the commercials - they were usually funnier...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    Ian Ward-Bolton, Jun 13th, 2008 @ 3:41am

    Treating symptoms instead of the root cause

    I think we are getting too distracted by the symptom of the "problem" here. The root issue seems to be that people who make TV shows want to make money and they get money by being bought by networks who make their money by having adverts, but viewers don't like adverts and they are watching for the show. Why not use the TV show as a promo for DVD sales and books and magazines and fan events and subscription sites and action figures and so on? (The kids TV show In The Night Garden on the BBC is an excellent example of this approach of building a brand around a show.) Then it doesn't matter if people have seen the show on TV or via internet download. Whatever the medium, the promo for the show's brand has been transmitted. Obviously this is no use for advertisers, but that is a good thing for everyone else!

    If advertisers really want to get noticed they should sponsor shows like others have suggested above. Associating your brand with another popular brand (the TV show) is a good way to get people to choose your product when they are in the supermarket. It's the brand that always matters, so providing your logo is shown next to something people like then it will have an effect.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. identicon
    unknownsoundman, Jun 14th, 2008 @ 9:17pm

    less show, more tell

    The easiest way to keep me from DVRing, is to put
    in a minute or two MORE commercials, with
    subject matter like constipation, feminine products,
    ED, that car I can not afford, that car I would not be caught dead in, or that movie I will never WANT to view.
    Why does Time Warner Cable keep advertising to me for the service I already have? Why does the weather channel advertise for me to watch the weather channel. All I wanted (and paid for) was to see what the weather was.
    It is raining in my tv, and all I get is garbage. I have no better outlook for the web.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32. identicon
    John, Jun 16th, 2008 @ 3:03pm

    Product placement

    For posters 14, 15, 18, and 27: Have you watched TV recently??

    A few months ago, an episode of Smallville was bought by Stride gum. Or more accurately, the producers whored themselves to fit chewing gum into the storyline.
    At the end of the episode, Pete Ross (who hasn't been on the show for years) says "Stride gum, now Kryptonite free!". Yeah, that makes me want to buy it!

    How about the Knight Rider re-make? GM bought the movie and practically every shot of the cars had a sweeping camera shot of the logo.

    Or how about actually pausing the *show* with a commercial? People aren't fast-forwarding over the show, so they have to watch the commercial.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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