The big networks have cycled back and forth on their approach to Tivo and its DVR brethren: They’ve alternately derided the technology and cautiously embraced it (don’t forget that much of Hollywood actually took equity stakes in Tivo at one point). Now that’s it’s well-established that the technology is reaching the mainstream and poses a major threat to the ad model, the networks are in full-on hug mode…
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They’re arguing that they love DVRs! Always have! “I think DVR usage, even though there is commercial skipping, is a positive.” CBS’ Les Moonves told Ken Auletta last month; the gist of his argument was that DVR users watch more TV in general. So even if they’re skipping ads, they’re still seeing more of them. Now NBC, aided by actual scientists who use hairnets and funny looking monitors, tells advertisers that DVR users are actually more attentive to ads even as they skip past them! That’s lucky! Granted, there’s likely a nugget of truth here – in my decidedly informal tests (no hairnets) with my lousy Time Warner Cable DVR, I end up watching quite a bit of the last ad in any ad block I skip past, due to clumsy forwarding/rewinding skills. But my bet is any test that shows a viewer is more “engaged” while skipping ads is simply measuring the wrong thing – they do indeed need to watch the screen to make sure they don’t forward too far, but that’s about the extent of it. And today’s NYT story, to its credit, takes an appropriately sceptical take on NBC’s findings. — Peter Kafka
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