How do you like that, DVRs didn't kill the television business after all

Grunge vintage television

Here’s a story I first heard on Figure 4 Daily last night while farming for mageweave (no, I’m not lying): not only have DVRs not ruined the TV businesses, as we had been led to believe for so many years, but it turns out that the delayed viewings, and more accurate ratings, have given the networks exactly what they’ve always wanted. That, of course, is the opportunity to squeeze more money out of their advertisers.

Some history: television networks had sued ReplayTV, once Tivo’s direct competitor before people even knew what “DVR” stood for, in 2001 because they felt its DVRs would let people skip commercials. There was also “share” function, which is bonkers considering the state of broadband in 2001.

The point is that the television networks hated DVRs since they thought people would record all this content (for free!), then skip the commercials. If people skipped the commercials then advertisers would become sad, and no longer hand over millions of dollars to the television networks for the privilege of airing commercials during The Office or some other hunk of junk.

Nielsen then stepped in and changed the way it measures viewership to include DVR viewings. The thing is, when you examine the data it turns out that people totally don’t skip commercials while watching DVR’d content.

TV, research shows, is still primarily a passive medium, That is, you’re sitting on your couch just watching. You’re not picking up your remote control to change the channel, you’re not pressing fast-forward to skip any commercials. TV = sitting down and not lifting a finger, it seems.

So the television networks were freaking out over nothing. Now they can turn to their advertisers: “See, even more people watch this junk then we ever thought! Pay us, please.”