Pity The Poor TV Broadcaster
July 31, 2001 4:48 PM   Subscribe

Pity The Poor TV Broadcaster It was obvious that Personal Video Recorders (like Tivo) were going to make it way easy to skip advertising. What I also realized, though, when talking to Lane about how Buffy is moving from the WB to UPN, is that folks who watch Buffy via a PVR could care less what channel it is on--they just tell the machine to "get me Buffy" and it does the rest. This study seems to affirm that, for a significant portion of the audience, this is true.
posted by peterme (24 comments total)
The biggest driving factor for people to watch TV shows when they are first broadcast is to either keep up with the masses (eg know who got booted on Survivor) or if they are addicted to a show and must watch it ASAP (like I am with Buffy). With the current advertising model, broadcasters will have to create compelling television in order to get people to watch it "live". If not enough people watch "live", will "free" tv go the way of "free" web?
posted by girlhacker at 5:14 PM on July 31, 2001

for a significant portion of the audience

Let's be sure to qualify that -- a significant portion (63% actually) of the 340 people interviewed for the stufy, extrapolated out to the larger group of PVR owners, which is estimated to be between 300,000-400,000 people in the entire U.S.

These people are the early adopters, and their behavior does not always generalize well to the larger population of media consumers. Nor are the networks likely to revamp their entire model of programming now for 250,000 viewers out of the tens of millions who watch network TV.

Forrester Research predicts 40 million units in 5 years. That's a mighty big leap in number of viewers, and you'd have to agree that the experience of the mass popularization of the Internet indicates that early adopter behavior doesn't predict how the larger audience will use the technology. And 5 years is an eternity in the media world now. To draw any conclusions from this study is terribly premature.

You'll recall how "time-shifting" was predicted to be a major influence that VCRs would have on viewing habits and thus network programming when VCRs became popular 15 years ago, and that certainly did not turn out to be the case.
posted by briank at 5:57 PM on July 31, 2001

Just wanted to point out that Tivo Season Passes are channel specific, so they won't follow Buffy off to that wasteland called UPN.
posted by smackfu at 6:00 PM on July 31, 2001

smackfu: You can setup a Wishlist that will auto record the show no matter which channel it is on in 2.x
posted by riffola at 6:42 PM on July 31, 2001

What blew my mind about this study (among others) is the claim that only 25% of VCR/PVR users fast-forward through commercials. The idea of anyone, let alone a thundering majority, spending hundreds of dollars on a TiVo and then sitting through the $@# ads makes me want to curl up under the sink and take a nap. It's like buying a car and carrying it to work everyday on your shoulders.
posted by bumppo at 6:48 PM on July 31, 2001

What about a feature to just watch the commercials and fast forward through the show? That would be far more captivating...
posted by Ptrin at 7:05 PM on July 31, 2001

smackfu: Except that virtually all Tivos out there now have wish lists which do, indeed, follow shows across channels.

If you have one and aren't using this feature, I can't even begin to tell you how much you're going to love it. Trust me.
posted by tsitzlar at 7:17 PM on July 31, 2001

Oops. I'm a day late and dollar short. Again. :P
posted by tsitzlar at 7:18 PM on July 31, 2001

If not enough people watch "live", will "free" tv go the way of "free" web?

The next evolution of the television business model will probably see the merging of advertizing and content, in the form of product placement. It's that or everything becomes pay-per-view.
posted by saturn5 at 7:58 PM on July 31, 2001

What I also realized, though, when talking to Lane about how Buffy...

Barbara Streisand and I were chatting the other day, and she said she doesn't like TiVo...
posted by rschram at 8:21 PM on July 31, 2001

rscham- you shouldn't name drop. DeNiro told me it's tacky.
posted by dogwelder at 8:31 PM on July 31, 2001

If the PVR induced viewing model becomes mainstream (my guess - 10 years), prepare to see more and more product placement like in the recent Survivor.

"Here, Buffy - use the Gins-O-Matic 2000 Knives to kill that vampire"

"You mean the ones I got from Ginsomatic.com?"

"You bet! They're made from stainless steel and molded by Guatemalan children"

"Neato! Click here to buy them!"

Or something like that. Hopefully they'll be a little more subtle. Probably not...
posted by owillis at 10:17 PM on July 31, 2001

Alias on ABC this fall is supposed to be commercial free thanks to Nokia's product placement.
posted by riffola at 10:49 PM on July 31, 2001

"...if this trend continues the network may cease to be a recognizable consumer brand, and network lineups will have less impact on a viewer who no longer identifies their favorite shows with the network on which they are broadcast."

I don't think that the PVR or TiVo is really to blame for this though. I watch TV for the show, not for what station it's on. Even before my TiVo, if someone asked me what channel a show was on, my response was usually, 12 - not ABC/CBS/NBC. I must admit, I love my TiVo. Wishlists and season passes are priceless. My one "wish" would be on the wishlist, that there was a feature to delete all shows By Actor as well.
posted by 120degrees at 11:39 PM on July 31, 2001

commercial free thanks to Nokia's product placement

They should've been sponsoring The X-Files then; I don't think any other show features Nokia phones (or cellphones for that matter) so frequently.
posted by lia at 12:13 AM on August 1, 2001

owillis: *That's Amazing!*

Seriously folks, I have cable in my household -- my bedroom in fact. I still "live at home" and my mother has a strong interest in many of the shows on cable. I tape the shows she wants onto a series of (long-play) 10 hour tapes. Her behaviour to programs matches very closely to that in the study (which is why I was moved to submit this story to Slashdot). She watches more TV, less ads and while she typically knows what station the shows are on (damn watermarks) she has little or no idea of the *time* they're on. She is not an "early adopter".
posted by krisjohn at 12:51 AM on August 1, 2001

I'm wondering how long it'll be before, in addition to the little watermark in the bottom right, there will be a little banner ad, to catch the people who use TiVo to fastforward by the regular commercials.
posted by RylandDotNet at 2:00 AM on August 1, 2001

I'm surprised Tivo hasn't started, and pocketing cash from, forced advertising. For instance, you watch a show, lets say from ABC. And as soon as you're done watching the show, have Tivo automatically flip over to an ad that was delivered in that "extra bandwidth" people though they were going to deliver web content over.

"Thanks for watching this wonderful ABC show. Your fast forward button as been disabled for the next 2 minutes. Sit back and enjoy." And then play an ad for something. Tivo pockets some cash, much needed from what we are hearing, the network gets the ad through, and the consumer gets annoyed. It's enough to make any MBA smile.
posted by benjh at 6:13 AM on August 1, 2001

The next evolution of the television business model will probably see the merging of advertizing and content, in the form of product placement. It's that or everything becomes pay-per-view

Or they'll target specific advertising directly at you (based on information you've provided them) before you can get to the show.
posted by trox at 6:52 AM on August 1, 2001

I'm surprised Tivo hasn't started, and pocketing cash from, forced advertising.

ReplayTV tried doing that sort of thing (it showed an ad when you paused live TV, after a few minutes) and its customers screamed bloody murder.

The difference between TiVo and ReplayTV as companies is that TiVo is smart enough to figure out that its customers won't go for having ads it inserted without having to try it. In fact, TiVo's revenue stream is a monthly subscription fee and it would destroy the company to start charging people to see more advertising.
posted by kindall at 9:13 AM on August 1, 2001

Back in the days of radio, they had pretty decent luck incorporating the advertising spots into the stories. While I can't remember specifics, I remember listening to a tape of an old comedy/adventure show where every once in awhile the hero character would stop and insert a humorous aside about the show's sponsor, listing off the sponsor's finer qualities in high camp to his sidekick who listened adoringly.

Or what about in Highlander 3, in the basement that had plastic hanging from the ceiling for no particular reason? Connor MacLeod beheads some schlub and the usual pyrotechnics begin-- windows blow out, sparks fall-- then there's a jump shot to a 6-pack of Mountain Dew just sitting on a table. Then it blows up. I still remember that product placement because of its awkward sincerity. What I don't remember is why I thought it would be a good idea to watch that movie.
posted by poseur at 10:03 AM on August 1, 2001

Question: Do TV stations send out some kind of signal that tells when commercials have started and stopped? I recall a friend having a VCR that could record just the show without human help.
posted by MarkO at 10:56 AM on August 1, 2001

I think there's a blank frame between tv/commercial and some VCRs are sensitive enough to pick it up. I bet Tivo could do it if the studios weren't so far up their heinies...
posted by owillis at 11:08 AM on August 1, 2001

Here's a BBC article from April 2001talking about how poorly TiVo has sold in the UK.
posted by briank at 12:16 PM on August 1, 2001

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