Have TV Networks Come Up With an Answer to DVRs?

Once upon a time, time-shifting (that’s using a DVR for most of us) was looked upon as a savior because it was a way to keep audiences watching TV. Now, however, it’s a big problem because people watch without looking at commercials and the time-shifting thing makes it harder for networks to measure audience size and therefore convince ad buyers that their prices are right.

In other words, the only ones benefitting from the existence and use of DVRs are the viewers. And we can’t have that, can we? What to do? What to do?

how dvrs work

 Oh God, They’re Screwing Up Our Ratings! Aiyee!
by Team TVWriter™ Press Service

Network television, hit hard by time-shifted viewing on DVRs, is reportedly placing renewed emphasis on what it sees as a possible solution to the problem: live programming.

The Hollywood Reporter calls the trend “the eventization of TV.” The publication notes: “With nearly half of viewers now watching scripted comedies and dramas on a delay, sports, late-night talkers and awards shows might be the last frontier for big ratings.”

The report adds: “At a time when nearly half of all U.S. homes have DVRs, networks are shelling out an estimated $7 billion for rights to air NFL games, awards shows are popping up all over the dial, and there doesn’t seem to be a major cable network that isn’t exploring a foray into topical late-night.”

As an example, the piece cites CBS’s announcement a week ago that it is investing in Mark Cuban’s fledgling cable venture AXS, which is focused on live programming.

“Advertisers, too, are clamoring for such opportunities in a fractured, ad-skipping environment, shelling out $444 million on awards shows and live nonsports events in 2012, up 22 percent compared with five years ago, according to Kantar Media,” the story reports. It adds that 30-second spots in this year’s Oscars have sold for as much as $1.8 million.

E! President Suzanne Kolb is among those “chasing live,” the report notes. Says Kolb: “There’s a real hunger for that [live] experience, which in some ways has been further fueled by the growth of DVR.

Adds Cuban: “In today’s world of social media, live TV starts the conversation that lives on Twitter and other social networks.”

“Style network this year will debut a live fashion and advice show, ‘Pop Style,’ and the cable late-night landscape continues to swell,” THR reports. “FX has a new live iteration of ‘BrandX With Russell Brand’ as well as ‘Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell.’ Bravo has added a Kathy Griffin offering and expanded ‘Watch What Happens Live’ to a Sunday-through-Thursday strip. TBS is developing companion efforts for ‘Conan,’ and E! tried (and failed) with the ‘Chelsea Lately’ complement ‘Love You, Mean It With Whitney Cummings.’”

The piece notes the success of AMC’s “Talking Dead,” a live recap show about “The Walking Dead,” which attracted 4.1 million viewers for its Feb. 10 episode and has been expanded to a full hour for the remaining episodes this season.

Joel Stillerman, executive VP of original programming at AMC, said: “There’s an energy that comes from [live] that is hard to define. The whole idea is to create an event atmosphere. There’s something that is just a little better and a little more energetic when you’re counting down to a live broadcast.”