DVR: A Helping Hand or a Hand in the Cookie Jar?

Cynthia Littleton’s, TV on Strike: Why Hollywood Went to War over the Internet, is a great read. Littleton talked about the Writers Guild of America Strike and the issues they faced during the strike. Her journalistic take on the issues really made this an enjoyable read.

In one of the sections of this book she discuss a phenomenon that is coincidentally very relevant in my life. The ability to record a TV show and watch it on your own time really, “transformed the way people watch television and movies” (7). This statement is very true for my family. I remember my god-mom buying her first TiVo box, in the early 2000s. She got sucked into the hype and was persuaded by all the advertisements and commercials. My gtivood-mom loved the fact that she could record her shows while she was at work, and then when it was time to relax she could watch her favorite shows without waiting for the reruns to be aired. Another feature that was very appealing and probably what excited my mom the most, was the fact that you could skip through the commercials. After a while my god-mom’s TiVo box filled up to its capacity, so she upgraded to the new box with more storage and gave us her old box. Christmas came early for that day. My mom eagerly had me set the box up and then proceeded to have me schedule her favorite shows to be recorded: Oprah, American Idol, The Bachelorette… And the list went on. A few years later the excitement wore off, and TiVo was a thing of the past. Keeping up with the times, we then switched to on-demand because there was one less bulky box on the TV stand. With on-demand we were allowed the same opportunities but instead of paying monthly it was now included in our cable bill. The only downside to on-demand was that we could only record two shows that ran at the same time also you couldn’t watch TV while those shows were recorded. Recently, Verizon had a promotion that allowed families to upgrade to a new box which allows you to now record up to six shows at one, solving that issues, but I digress.

After reading this book I realized that something I was so excited about was hurting the industry that provided it. I nor my family had any idea that TV shows received compensation for the amount of viewers they have watching when their new episodes release. By recording a show instead of watching it when it is aired we are gypping studios ‘views’ per show we record. My family is one of many who are benefitting from this ‘helping hand’ we know as on-demand. When the people behind the scenes working are caught with their ‘hand in the cookie jar’. “The on-demand programming revolution has been eagerly embraced by viewers, who are watching more TV than ever before. But the new ways that they are able to watch are posing a threat to the traditional business model that drives major broadcast and basic cable networks”.(7) While I thought that there was nothing wrong with skipping adds, because I was getting through my episode faster and finally able to enjoy watching TV.  Fast forwarding through commercials was an issue, “The rampant concern about ad skipping undermining, if not destroying, advertisers’ incentive to spend big bucks on national TV spots hastened the industry’s embrace of product placement and branded integration in programming”.(8) These are just a couple of the issues Littleton states in her book.

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