I've recently become the happy owner of some DVR hardware - in my case it's an OnAir/AutumnWave device that plugs into my PC, so I can both timeshift shows, and record them to my PC. This means I can make clips and post them to YouTube - it's probably illegal, but so is most of YouTube. And so far, Stephen Colbert doesn't seem to mind.
I love having this ability - to me, this is the way TV should have always been since it was first introduced. Although the most talk about DVRs is the Fast-Forward button, the feature that sells it for me is Pause. I can watch a great show, and if I want to talk to my friends about something I'm watching, or unrelated, it's no longer one or the other - I can Pause the show, enjoy my conversation, and come back to it.
In fact, I love having this DVR so much that it's made me wonder how sensibly people like ABC's executive are being - people who have tried to eliminate the Fast Forward feature from Tivo, and made claims to advertisers that people who have the Fast Forward feature don't use it. Obviously TV industry execs are scared of DVR - but should they be?
For one, I actually watch more TV now than I did without a DVR. Shows I normally wouldn't bother with because I'm busy cooking dinner or working I can now record and watch at my leisure - I can get 10 minutes of Law & Order in while I wait for a pot of water to boil, then pause it while I put in the pasta.
Second, what TV I do watch has me more engaged, because if a distraction comes up I can pause while I entertain that distraction, and when I come back, the TV has my full attention again.
Third, shows on at strange times or on conflicting channels I can now watch as well. Two season premieres on at the same time? I can watch one while I record the other. Or record both if I have 2 DVRs (those OnAirs are cheap!). New, interesting show just getting its start on at midnight? I can record that while I sleep and watch it tomorrow.
So, it could be argued that the DVR actually expands TV station's options rather than reducing them. Being able to start a good show idea at any time of day - not just Prime Time - adds a lot of breathing room to the schedule.
Of course, it could be argued that none of this helps TV station revenue, because I'm not watching the commercials. But in practice that's not true either.
First, fast-forwarding is a primarily human task for now - most DVR software doesn't detect and skip commercials for you automatically yet. This means I forget to fast forward a lot - and I've noticed that when I do fast-forward, it's in response to being annoyed: Either the commercial is way too loud, includes an "alarm sound," or I've seen it way too many times. In the first 2 cases the lesson to advertisers is simple: Don't annoy the viewer. That's a fine shift in advertising, as until DVRs the opposite motivation is obvious: If the viewer is distracted a lot, blast some alarming sound or guy screaming to ensure you get their attention. Now, that's the best way to get you skipped. In the last case of the commercial playing too many times, that's fine: You've already marketed to me enough.
But, I do fast-forward, and surely I do skip many commercials I otherwise would have sat through. But, as I mentioned earlier, the ones I do manage to sit through I'm paying more attention to than I would have before.
And because I can cut clips of my shows, I've noticed one last thing: The commercials played on my favorite shows, I see more than any other commercials. This is because I'm constantly playing over the clips to find good cutting points, and the commercials come along for the ride - until I cut them that is. Although the final product is commercial-free, the truth is this new TV-related activity of mine is causing me to see a LOT of a few commercials played during my favorite programming.
This might have an interesting new lesson for TV shows and advertisers; while cult hits like 24 and other shows that had a small but very dedicated following, perhaps these shows now have more value than before - because these are the shows viewers are going to watch over and over, and make clips of, etc, with their DVRs.
In fact, I'd love to see Nielsen ratings catch onto this, so advertisers do as well - it would help prevent the death of a lot of shows that had a small set of viewers who adored the show, rather than a broad set of viewers who found it so-so, which is most of the crap on TV - that's what made money in the old model. Perhaps the biggest money-maker in the new model, is the show with the most enthused following, rather than the largest.
What do you think? Do you find yourself watching dramatically fewer commercials, or less, but with more attention to devoted to the ones you do watch? Or, none at all?