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PVRs and Advertisers' Worries

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  • by swngnmonk (210826) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @10:47AM (#3572469) Homepage

    "We've trained people that you can buy things at 3 in the morning in the nude on the Internet and make a call to anyone from anywhere on a cellphone, and the idea that CBS is going to determine when I watch `CSI' flies in the face of that trend," said Josh Bernoff, an analyst with Forrester Research. "TV networks are going to have to figure out how to make money from a TV viewer that is not nailed to the chair waiting for the commercial to end."


    Amen to that!

    • i think that "they" would prefer to nail you to your chair, clockwork orange style, instead of coming up with a new revenue model.

      i mean, if you dont watch the commercials, then the terrorists have won.

      (the only thing i Like about The War Against Terrorism, is the acronym)

    • by einer (459199) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @11:54AM (#3573044) Journal
      Expect more product placements. Expect flashing graphics overlayed on top of billboards during baseball games. The time for commercials still exists, unfortunately it coincides perfectly with the time for the programming... ;(
    • by MtViewGuy (197597) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @12:57PM (#3573517)
      I think the problem with television network executives is that there's been a pretty strong warning about changes in TV viewing habits that Alvin Toffler mentioned in one of the most prophetic books ever written, The Third Wave.

      The book was published (in 1979) at the time when home videocassette recorders were starting to become popular. What VCR's did was to effectively destroy the whole idea of synchonized television watching Toffler mentioned in this book, where everyone watched TV all at the same time. With VCR's (and now DVR's), you can record a TV program for viewing at a later time; the rise of VCR's was a big contributing factor in the ascendency of David Letterman's success (NBC's Late Night with David Letterman was one of the most recorded shows on TV, according to Nielsen Research).

      Indeed, with VCR's being so inexpensive nowadays many people own more than one VCR; it makes even the idea of network counter-programming obselete since the viewer can record multiple shows at the same time and watch it later at their own leisure.

      I think the networks will have to really start factoring in the wide use of VCR/DVR devices; in a way, ABC is already doing this by running a number of their ABC network first-run programs as a first rerun on the ABC Family cable channel.
  • by Black Aardvark House (541204) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @10:49AM (#3572484)
    Then they should have been bothered for years by such commercial-killers like the toilet or refrigerator. People have been using those for years to skip commercials.

    Personally, I channel-surf when commercials are run during a favorite show.
    • I've always used a VCR to record shows and then watch later, skiping commercials.

      I think the TIVO shows how poorly the VCR makers made their user interfaces. The only other thing that DVRs really have on a VCR are the program guide and the ability to record while watching, as well as pause motion while still recording.
      • I've always used a VCR to record shows and then watch later, skiping commercials.

        Yes, but you're still SEEING the commercials - they're just going extremely quickly.

        With PVRs, the jump is instantaneous, like skipping to track 6 of a CD. That's the problem, that's what advertisers are complaining about.

        Plus, it takes maybe 15 seconds to fast-forward through 3 minutes worth of commercials. It takes 0 seconds to skip over them them a PVR.

        • by CMiYC (6473) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @12:48PM (#3573426) Homepage
          Yes, but you're still SEEING the commercials - they're just going extremely quickly.

          Not really. The VCR I bought 3 years ago has built in commerical skip. It has the option of letting you watch it skip through the commercials or blue screening while doing so. I usually left it on the blue so that I would know once it was done skipping. My TiVo doesn't let you instantly skip the commercials. Granted you can enable the 30-second skip, but that still doesn't get you to the exact end of them.

          Not all PVR's let you skip over them in 0 seconds and not all VCRs require you to watch them while skipping.
          • Also, my VCR has some sort of Commercial Advance treatment where, once the recording was done, it would go back and analyze the video. When it determines that you just hit a commercial, it fast forwards until the main show starts. It gave me ZERO false positives, and it skipped most of the commercials.

            The VCR also had a one minute skip.

            At any rate, the ads fly by so quickly it's hard to determine what most of them are for.
        • I've always used a VCR to record shows and then watch later, skiping commercials.
          Yes, but you're still SEEING the commercials - they're just going extremely quickly.
          This is precisely why BLIPVERTS [google.com] were invented. Too bad they make people explode, though...
    • by WinDoze (52234) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @12:47PM (#3573416)
      Personally, I channel-surf when commercials are run during a favorite show.

      I learned a nifty trick from my wife's (eccentric-in-a-fun-way) Grandfather. When commercials come on (or anyone you don't like, i.e. a Britney Spears video) hit the mute button and make up your own dialog. The particular example I gleaned from Grandpa was when Minnie Driver was accepting some award on yet-another-award-show. He hates her for some unknown reason, hit the mute button when she came up to do her acceptance speech, and started spouting things like "I can't believe I only had to blow 5 guys to get this award", etc.
  • by Codex The Sloth (93427) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @10:50AM (#3572500)
    The advertising world is rapidly approaching the point when they are going to have to realize that TV ads are not >>nearly as effective as they thought they were. The reason people think (or rather know) that banner ads are ineffective is because you can measure it. There's no such technology for TV ads but between people getting up to pee, fast forwarding their VCR's or just tuning out in general -- I submit that they are grossly ineffective (especially for the price paid). An entire industry (Neilson, Ad agencies, the networks) has sprung up to propagate this lie, but that doesn't make it anymore true.

    • Yeah, there are differences between banner ads and TV ads - the target audience

      the majority of banner ads are seen by people who are among the more intelligent
      and the more intelligent you are, the less succeptible to ads you are

      TV ads are aimed at a much larger group of people and probably have a significantly better take up ratio
      Also, they are often targetted at the people who are likely to watch the program (like advertising date lines during the late night repeat of buffy to catch those 20 year old single men)

      Perhaps TV ads arent as effective as some people think, they certainly do do a lot
      • the majority of banner ads are seen by people who are among the more intelligent
        and the more intelligent you are, the less succeptible to ads you are


        I don't know if it's intelligence -- some people just seem to be more susceptible, I think it's just an ability to filter clutter. Coma patients probably don't respond much either! But I agree, Miss Cleo ads only seem to work on a certain segment of the population.

        My point is that it's not that scientific -- they just throw spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. Infomercials and datelines are shown in the middle of the night because it's cheaper to advertise then. I imagine for alot of things, they just put on a bunch of ads during primetime and hope for the best.

        Advertising is full of lots of lame "rules of thumb" like "Old people are set in their ways so they don't buy things" or "People in Europe don't buy things during summer". Advertising is about as much science as economics is -- the dismal science.
    • I disagree. Consider the late night infomercial or latest only available on TV product. The only money they see is if someone watches the commercial and makes a purchase. The expected revenue will be more than the cost of the advertising and manufacturing costs (We call it "capitalism").

      Where there's a lot of brand loyalty (Pepsi vs Coke), advertising doesn't cahgne people's opinions, and advertisers know it, but it does increase mindshare among the ambivalent and can increase consumption by the faithful.

      Ultimately, though, the price of advertising is reflected in the price of the product. $1 of the average box of cereal pays for advertising. Do you think Kelloggs doesn't realize that? Are they going to stop all advertising so they can reduce the price of their cereals by $1? Nope. You can buy generic cereal for less. Some people do. Kelloggs, et alia, believe the advertising is worth it.
    • It's clear that you've never worked in, around or near advertising. Yes, you can measure the effectiveness of an advertisement. Here's how it's done:
      1. Air a new advertisement in some market
      2. Wait a month
      3. Compare sales figures
      Yes, you see, companies keep track of how much they sell, and where they sell it. They also keep track of what ads were aired to what demographics. By combining these two, and doing some math, you'll find that there's a strong correlation between advertising, and sales.

      Stick to talking about something you understand, like masturbation.

  • Well... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by st0rmshad0w (412661) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @10:51AM (#3572507)
    With commercial skippers and channel surfers being thieves and all that, violating their contracts with the networks....

    Gee, and I thought that paying for cable in the first place was meant to eliminate the need for commercial spots.
    • Wrong. Paying the cable company is paying for the lines to your house and the infrastructure of the network. You aren't, and never were, charged for CBS or any of the other channels. Nor was the cable fee ever meant to replace commercials. The bill you pay to the cable company is just to get the service to your house (unless you purchase HBO or something).
      • Re:Well... (Score:2, Interesting)

        by sydlexic (563791)
        in that case, we're getting overcharged massively... but i guess we knew that. it's funny what monopolies can do. where i live, there is one cable provider and the basic package is $39.95. where my mom lives, there are *three* providers and the basic package (similar lineup) is $8.95 a month. i wonder which is closer to the true cost.
      • The bill you pay to the cable company is just to get the service to your house (unless you purchase HBO or something).

        If by "something" you mean "anything other than the non-basic service, which in my neighborhood consists of nothing of value that I couldn't get via rabbit-ears" then I agree with you. But I have never, never, been satisfied with basic service. I always opt at least for the "expanded" service - just to get a few channels that I want, plus a lot of other crap that I don't, but the cable company doesn't make it possible for me to buy just the channels I want, so don't get me started on that soapbox - and don't tell me that I'm paying for infrastructure and getting a bunch of free service. I'm not.

        --Jim
      • Actually, while I will concede that the _intent_ may not necessarily have been to replace commercials, that fact remains that for a long period of time (years) ad spots only appeared on the broadcast networks the cable system (mine at least) was carrying.

        But then advertisers started to appear on other cable channels, and somehow the cost for cable _increased_? WTF?
    • Re:Well... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Mr_Silver (213637)
      Gee, and I thought that paying for cable in the first place was meant to eliminate the need for commercial spots.

      Not really, it's a suppliment. The rest of the money comes from ... you guessed it ... adverts. If they really did scrap all adverts, then your monthly fee would skyrocket to the point that it would be horrendiously expensive and no-one would be prepared to pay for it.

      Again, I point out that it only works in the UK because:

      1. The BBC don't get into bidding wars for popular programmes - they just pick up the stuff years later when the cost is down
      2. The BBC do a lot of home-grown stuff which, whilst still being expensive, is cheaper than buying it from other companies
      3. The BBC then sell these programmes to others to recoup costs (Tellytubbies is one popular example)
      4. Everyone who owns a TV in Britain is forced to purchase a licence by law. Thats a lot of people and a lot of money.
  • by WinkyN (263806) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @10:51AM (#3572508) Homepage
    is it possible for there to be any kind of media without advertising?

    I received my latest National Geographic magazine yesterday, and immediately went for the map included with that issue. It's a beautiful map of Mt. Everest and the various expeditions that have ascended that peak.

    I flipped it over and saw a bloody ad for Ford taking up the entire poster. Instead of providing additional information about humanity's accomplishments in relation to the mountain, we get to hear about Ford's support of mountain climbing. I'm less than pleased with this.

    Advertising is becoming so pervasive you can't do anything without seeing an ad. Watching a movie? Look for the product placement. Driving a car? Look for the billboards to roll by every quarter mile. I can't answer my phone any more because literally 90 percent of calls to my home are telemarketers.

    When will it stop? When will we (consumers) be able to find something to do without being bombarded with advertising?
    • by Flower (31351)
      Just regarding the mag issue and skipping the rest.

      That's ok. I'm sure they can make an ad free version of National Geographic for you at ~$50US an issue. And no, I'm not kidding about that price one bit. I work in the IT department for a newspaper and without ads the cost of a daily newspaper would go from 75 cents to nearly 20 dollars iirc. Ads really do make that big of a difference in the profit of a publication. Ford probably paid a premium for that spot.

      As for myself, when I was in your position I used to love having the ads in those places. I could then remove the map/article/whatever and not damage any additional content within the publication. Personally, I don't know what you are bitching about. You got the map for a song. Not all advertising is bad.

    • Consumers will be able to find something to do without being bombarded by ads when they pay for everything. The reason free TV is free is because the costs are paid with advertising. The reason many web sites are (or were) free was because the costs were paid by advertising. You can watch TV without ads, it will just cost you $10 per channel to get HBO or Cinemax. You want web sites without ads, find one that is members only and join it, most of them are ad free. Everything costs money. That cost has to be paid by something. If it isn't ads, it will probably be by you.
    • Welcome to the BBC (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mccalli (323026)
      is it possible for there to be any kind of media without advertising?

      Yes - it's the BBC. For those who might not know, there are no adverts on the BBC. We pay a 'license fee' (euphamism for a tax levy). This fee then goes towards paying for the BBC. In addition, the BBC also has some merchandising and sells off programmes to foreign stations.

      But then you know that. It always raises a giggle from me when I'm in the US and I see PBS saying "it's only with your donations that we're able to bring you quality programming like the Teletubbies". Really? Leaving aside whether you believe Teletubbies to be quality (I do, for it's target audience), I could have sworn that the real reason it exists is because of my UK taxes going towards it...

      So there's your answer. Directly funded TV is possible, and does exist. Just not in the US as far as I'm aware.

      Cheers,
      Ian

      • PBS used to be taxpayer/government funded. Sometime in the last 5 years or so, the gov't stopped most of it's support or public TV. Public TV in the US is largely in the process of dying. Without gov't handouts, it's impossible to scrounge up enough money from begging to support a television station. PBS has got more and more ads every single day.
    • After all, ads simply cheapen the model for the end viewer.

      Television won't go away, but at the end of the day, commercials just make it cheaper, but charging $.25 for each show would make the networks rich as hell. So either way, commercials will be here, and so will pay TV.

      There just needs to be a way to pay for your TV and have no commercials, but that won't happen either, because ads are so pervasive.

      Even if you pay for a magazine or television with almost complete exclusivity for commercials, then they will still attempt to slip a few in, BECAUSE THE TEMPTATION IS THERE TO TURN A FEW EXTRA BUCKS because now it is more of a tempting target. Cosmo or something similar? You pay $5 an issue and it is ALL ADVERTISING.

      Strangely, I have noticed mostly men complaining about the commercials, although that is defenitely not a hard and fast rule. It just appears that women like to kind of shop in their heads when they are watching... after all, not to stereotype, but most women that aren't totally into compiling or racing cars seem to like shopping.

      The best thing to do is tape or Tivo it out, but if that doesn't work, then learn to totally ignore it. I work in TV, and the advertising force is the same size as the production force. I guess no one should be surprised by this.
      • Advertiising firms employ a bunch of people who could be making more X. Since less X gets made, volume is lower, prices rise to fill in the profit margin. Not to mention the huge outlay of $$$ for marketing that could also be rolled into profit, R&D, etc.

        Maybe 50 years ago, getting info about your needed products to consumers was a problem, but not now. If the customer even has an inkling they need it, finding it themselves is easy. If they don't need it, then you're just diverting money away from other businesses that might use it for better things.

        Advertising is a dinosaur, huddling in the jungle wondering when all the little meteorites will stop.. never thinking that a big one is on the way.
    • If you don't like the ads on tv, in magazines, on billboards, and calling you on the phone, well, find a quiet room and read a book.
      I don't even have cable TV. I own a TV for sole purpose of watching DVD movies. So there.
  • Most likely solution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CaffeineAddict2001 (518485) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @10:51AM (#3572512)
    Commercials integrated into the shows. Basically, the commercials will be the shows. (as if they wern't already).
    • by motardo (74082)
      I'm seeing more and more prominent product placement on the main networks nowadays. It's like how there are products that are off in the background, but aren't too blurry to read when they're doing a close-up of the actors face.
    • Ah, you may be right about this... remember "The Truman Show"? The show was never interrupted, per se, but there was very commercial-esque product placement and endorsement built in. It does seem to be the logical next step... if you can't get people to sit through the commercials, you can trick them into watching them as part of the show.
  • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @10:52AM (#3572518) Homepage
    Right now the only ones that are whining are the CEO's and the other clueless wastes of space that like to make noise and get media attention.

    at the sales front, advertising sales are down, why? BECAUSE THE ECONOMY SUCKS. and the CEO's who will be the first to be fired for sales dropping by the board are trying to point the focus of blame elsewhere. it's a simple Cover your Ass move, blame something out of your control.

    In reality, companies buying advertising is still buying advertising, they aren't saying, "I dont want to buy TV spots as PVR owners will just skip them, I'll advertise in the newspaper instead" and they wont say it. It does not affect them, they do not lose money no matter what lies they try and create. (Make them show proof of 1 client that stopped advertising with them because of PVR's ... they cant)

    basically, everyone needs to call these whiners on the carpet, make them prove it or shut up.

    and the bottom line is they cant prove it because the impact is not real.
  • Do advertisters honestly believe that we sit enthralled by their crapulous offerings? Commercials are the point in a television show where I have the chance to take a leak or grab some cookies.

    Hehhehe.. Record a commercial? I don't even do that now. that's what the "Pause" button is for.
  • by josquint (193951) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @10:52AM (#3572521) Homepage
    either make them REALLY eye catching so i notice them when i fastforward over them(which works, cuz if i DO see an ad worth watching i slow down and take a look, and am still able to skip over the feminine itching ads)

    or make them in slow-mo :) that way you'd see them in normal time FFing over them... sux to be a normal TV veiwer hehe :)

    • Sorry, man, but only got a couple words into your post and already have issues, please consider:

      Make ads work with PVR You really don't want this, if you think about how abusive pop-under ads and hideous flashing x20 pr0n-cam ads are. Imagine JavaScript/VBScript TV, running along with all your other content, only your PVR sees it and throws crap all over the screen in front of your shows and you have to kill them or wait for them to time-out until you can go on.

      To make advertising work, they'll have to experiment with variable length ads (so obvious no-one ever thought of it, surprised?), you get a 23 second ad, a 37 second ad, etc., also placement in shows (which is where radio and TV once were), make advertising in such a way you don't know your really watching an ad (i.e. pretty much any saturday morning cartoon, it's a plug for toys.)

      I wouldn't want them farking around with PVRs to make the ad content carried and processed by it, but you know money talks, and even TiVo may be listening.

      • I'm already working on software for my tivo that will kill most ads, no matter what tricks they use. It md5s the first frame of all ads, and adds this to a database that contains how long the ad is, so that it can blank it out whenever it sees it.

        Still needs me to hit the "adkiller" button, but I'll only see it once, and then only part of it. If I get it working, may have to let others use the db...
  • Somebody gains? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sqlrob (173498) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @10:53AM (#3572528)
    I really don't understand the logic of this:

    There is an important distinction, Mr. Sternberg said, between "zipping and zapping": "When people switch channels, they are going from something to something else. There are losses for one channel, but gains for another. With fast-forwarding there are only losses."

    If you're surfing on ads, you're going to something else that's not ads. Where's the gain?

    • Re:Somebody gains? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by e40 (448424)
      But in the process of surfing through 50 channels, you will glimpse ads for many companies. This subliminal "you saw a little bit of it" is worth something to do the advertisers. (I didn't say it was effective, just that this is what they want.)
    • If you're surfing on ads, you're going to something else that's not ads. Where's the gain?

      Because usually you end up going through several intermediate stations, with at least a second or two of ads, and those add up? Maybe this is why "digital cable" was invented - to force viewers to slow down to 5 seconds between channels =)
  • by Mr_Silver (213637) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @10:54AM (#3572535)
    without having to register then click here [majcher.com].

    One day, maybe slashdot authors will link to the partner version and implement google style caching too :o)

  • by dave_aiello (9791) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @10:54AM (#3572540) Homepage
    Slashdot readers may be interested to know that this article appears on the front page of most print editions of the New York Times. The Times has run many articles about Personal Video Recorders (like TiVo and ReplayTV) in the past, including a big article in the Sunday New York Times Magazine. But, this is the first time anything about the technology has appeared on Page A1, at least AFAIK.
  • by lindsayt (210755) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @10:55AM (#3572546)
    At the risk of making a 640K-style prediction, PVRs are here to stay and the networks are going to have to get over it.

    1)There is no contract, explicit or implicit, between the transmitter and the receiver of radio waves. This is clearly laid out on the basis of CB, AM, FM, and TV laws for years. Though satellite and cable do in fact have an explicit contract between the people on opposite ends of the beam or wire, this is *NOT* between the original transmitters and the final receivers. This is an important point of FCC rulings.

    2)The satellite and cable companies all stand behind PVRs as value-added features they can give their users. This puts the whole discussion into a legal battle between behemoth companies, not a napster-like fight between david and goliath.

    3)Many of the companies who could lose from PVRs also could gain: Sony of course owns CBS, and while they lose money on ad revenue, the gain from the sale of PVRs. Same with Philips.

    4)No matter how hard they try, reason generally does win out, and it's hard to imagine people ever being convinced that not watching ads is stealing - in which case refrigerators and toilets have been stealing for years.
  • The bottom line... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Copperhead (187748) <talbrech@ s p e a k e asy.net> on Thursday May 23, 2002 @10:55AM (#3572547) Homepage
    is that industries hate to change. The 30 second spot that has worked so well for almost half a century doesn't work anymore, but instead of adapting methods of advertizing, the industry works to ban the technology so they don't need to adapt.

    My guess is that if advertizers embraced the new technology, and started moving towards placing the advertizements in the shows (product placement, etc.), the technology could be a great boon to advertizing. But just wait... instead they'll lobby the Federal government.

    I love the Heinlein quote... "There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary public interest. "

  • NYTimes Account info (Score:3, Informative)

    by josquint (193951) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @10:55AM (#3572548) Homepage
    In case you're not the 'free registering' type.
    Use this account info:

    Username: slashdottroll
    Password: slashdottroll

    should work, i just set it up...
  • The problem TV faces (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wiredog (43288) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @10:56AM (#3572557) Journal
    It's not so much with the first runs, such as Buffy on WB, it's with the syndication. Placement spots, where you see Buffy drinking Coke instead of Pepsi, could be sold to replace the advertising spots. Some movies already do that.

    But how to make money off of syndication? When a show is in reruns the local station, or cable network, makes money by selling advertising. But if the ads are embedded in the show, how will the station make any money? Remembering that, without money they don't show the show. Will the backgrounds of the shots have to be digitally altered to sell new advertising? Or the foreground? Will we see Willow using a Mac on the first run, and a Dell in the rerun?

    • Or what if no one wants to buy the vacated embedded advertising (to alter it per the above post) or if it's so entrenched (frex, a can of Coke in *every* scene) that it would be absurdly cost-ineffective to digitally alter it, not to mention the cost to redistribute it?

      The upshot is that a show that doesn't attract enough conventional ad dollars then goes into the scrapheap, never to be syndicated again.

      • And, since no show can attract enough conventional ad dollars, no show goes into reruns.
        • And what does that do to the entire market? An awful lot of why people get cable and Tivo-type devices, is for snagging old shows they long to see again or missed on the first run.

    • The rest of the world gets by fine without syndication. I for one would be extremely happy to not have buffy in syndication- it would mean that I could purchase everything up to something like season 6 on dvd like my british friends. We're hoping to get a season two release in June for region 1.
  • NPR model (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dolphinuser (211295) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @10:57AM (#3572566)
    Perhaps the answer is for brodcasters to switch to a "sponsor" model, like NPR and PBS do.

    Note that this is the model that CNBC [msn.com] is using with "Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser", and it seems to be working very well for them.

    John
  • He has a point (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mr_Silver (213637) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @10:58AM (#3572574)
    "The free television that we've all enjoyed for so many years is based on us watching these commercials," said Jamie C. Kellner, chief executive of Turner Broadcasting. "There's no Santa Claus. If you don't watch the commercials, someone's going to have to pay for television and it's going to be you."

    He does have a point. A large amount of the funding of programmes comes from adverts. If advertisers don't use it any more because they're not seeing a return on costs then they won't bother.

    Here in the UK we pay a shade over 100 pounds ($150) a year to have a couple of advert free TV channels and a number of advert free radio stations. Yes, they still push out rubbish, but our rubbish is still of a higher quality than elsewhere in the world.

    It is worth noting though that it only works because everyone is forced to pay this by law if they own a TV set.

    • Yes he does have a point, but only regarding over-the-air broadcast stations. Cable TV in its initial development/deployment had zero advertiser support. The fee for cable service was meant to support the station. Frankly I'm surprised the whole 'show producer'-'broadcaster'-'advertiser'-'veiwer' system didn't collapsed years ago.
    • Oooh, paying for TV. My god... that would be like... well, like cable is now. I pay for TBS (Turner Broadcasting Station... hi Ted!), and I pay for HBO, etc etc etc. HBO is some of the best programming out there, and they don't have commercials.
  • by Black Aardvark House (541204) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @10:58AM (#3572579)
    They also see fewer than half the commercials they used to, compressing hourlong shows into 40 minutes

    That's right. One-third of network television's airtime is dedicated to advertising. And they're wondering why people are getting fed-up with commercials. It seems to be a rising trend [media-awareness.ca] as well.

    I used to tape the Tick on Fox back when it was first run. The earlier seasons had approximately one more minute of programming than later seasons.

    Stop bombarding us already!
  • We've had commercial skip on our analog vcr's for almost half a decade now, but they don't worry about them? Plus now that commercials are done with full stereo soundtracks and studios are removing their analog equipment for commercial scheduling most of the clues that these schemes use are going away anyways. Why is this really such a big concern for the advertisers. Now for the studios I understand as PVR's make the idea of prime time obsolete, but for my money I would think that not tying a popular program to a particular timeslot would make it even more popular eg I haven't watched dark angel since they moved it to Fridays because I always go out with my wife to dance clubs and the like on Fridays.
  • Simple Answer (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdotNO@SPAMworf.net> on Thursday May 23, 2002 @11:03AM (#3572610)
    There's lots of ways to fix this:

    * Ads that are *INTERESTING*. I watch those on my TiVo. I skip the boring ones.
    * A *VARIETY* of ads. Even I get bored watching the same ad the upteenth time in half an hour. Penalties for those who show the exact same ad twice in one commercial break.
    * Pay-Per-Show. Let people buy shows without ads. Problem solved. If I want to watch x with ads, then make it so I have to watch the ads. If I don't want to watch it with ads, I'll buy it.

    TiVo, ReplayTV, etc are not the problem. It's the archaic business model. If you require ads to be seen in this technological age, and lots of people have the technology to skip it, well, it's time to rethink the way you do business. Make people pay for shows is one solution. The shows I watch tend to get cancelled all the time (the only TV show I watch that I can count on running it's full length is Enterprise). Other than news, and the occasional movie, I only watch *5* (yes 5) hours of TV programming regularly. If I could pay for the shows that were cancelled, I could set my TiVo up to record them at any inane hour of the day (3:30 AM? why not?). Especially since it'll be commercial free.

    Of course, the entire TV industry would be turned upside down now that ratings don't really matter - just making money from the show.

    - Especially bitter because of the number of shows he watched has been cancelled or will be cancelled. Heck, the way the TV stations and studios are going, I might not even need a TiVo or TV anymore - there would be *NOTHING* interesting on for me to watch.
    • Re:Simple Answer (Score:4, Interesting)

      by JWhitlock (201845) <John-Whitlock AT ieee DOT org> on Thursday May 23, 2002 @12:20PM (#3573220)
      I'll add a possible fix:
      * Allow PVR users to vote on commercials

      This could possibly measure 4 things:

      1. The people that liked the commercial
      2. The people that didn't like the commercial
      3. The people that cared enough to vote (1+2)
      4. The people that didn't care enough to vote (if you know how many people watched a show)
      People that buy Tivo are serious TV watchers and usually gadget heads - they have proven that they are willing to buy things ($500 worth, plus cable/satilite). Seems like it would be a good demographic to measure.

      The third and fourth measurements are important as well - as others have said, an advertisement is 90% successful if you just remember the product. If you enjoyed the commercial but couldn't remember the product, you've lost. Thus, I would think an ad that gets 1000 thumbs up and 9000 thumbs down might be more effective than an add that gets 900 thumbs up and 100 thumbs down. Even if you have no intention of buying the tech now, do you have a good idea what X10 could be used for?

      It may mean giving up a little privacy (such as letting Tivo and it's advertising customers know what shows you watch), but there are benefits. If advertisers could subsidize Tivo so that the boxes cost $100 and the channel guide was free, then I'd have to consider buying Tivo for family for Christmas...

      Plus, I'd love it when a cat commercial comes on to know what the cool song is...

  • by no_such_user (196771) <`jd-slashdot-200 ... dreamallday.com'> on Thursday May 23, 2002 @11:07AM (#3572630)
    As mentioned in the article, Tivo has "teamed" with Best Buy to bring up a Sheryl Crow video when a Best Buy ad triggers it.

    To bring this video to the box of (just about) every tivo user, Tivo buys time on Discovery Channel around 4:00am. They broadcast the video in the clear and have Tivo record it, but hide it from the list of recorded programs. The trigger to display the icon indicating extra available material is broadcast on a not often used (and masked by the Tivo) secondary closed captioning stream. Tivo intercepts this and acts accordingly.

    Unfortunately, Tivo also adds an extra icon and menu item on the main menu, advertising the availability of (and giving you a direct link to) the videos. This isn't the first time this has happened -- Tivo "teamed" with BMW a few months back to do a similar promotion. There is a big debate [tivocommunity.com] going on in the Tivo Community Forums [tivocommunity.com] on if this is acceptable to Tivo users (who are already paying $13/mo for the service).

    • Unfortunately, Tivo also adds an extra icon and menu item on the main menu

      Happening in the UK too - yesterday we got an 'Unmissable viewing from the BBC!' message, with an average new sitcom attached.

      My worry is the space requirements. I trust this thing gets deleted if I start running out of space? And I mean, deleted before any of my own programmes or even Tivo-suggested programmes get deleted? The suggestions are based on my preferences. The advert show clearly isn't. I do not want this advert interfering with what I bought the machine for in the first place.

      Cheers,
      Ian

  • by ari{Dal} (68669) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @11:08AM (#3572632)

    Digital successors to the VCR that eliminate the frustration of recording television programs have crossed a popularity threshold, raising alarm among advertisers and TV executives who see the devices as a threat to the economics of commercial television.


    the times they are a changin boys. get used to it. brick and mortar stores learned to augment their sales online, now it's time for you to get with the times and learn how to supplement with the pvrs. Use product placement instead. God knows we see enough of it now.

    You're not going to hold it back. we all know that. I'm planning on buying a PVR as soon as possible... i never thought i would, but then my boyfriend gave me a dvd player for christmas. It's easier, more convenient, and fun than a VCR, and i'm betting PVRs are even better. i'm hooked on digital TV and now i want it all. ALL DAMN YOU!


    Numbers like that have provoked gloomy pronouncements from industry executives. Some even come close to accusing habitual ad skippers of theft.

    "The free television that we've all enjoyed for so many years is based on us watching these commercials," said Jamie C. Kellner, chief executive of Turner Broadcasting. "There's no Santa Claus. If you don't watch the commercials, someone's going to have to pay for television and it's going to be you."



    Ok, this one pisses me off. So the $50 i pay a month for my satellite TV service is a gift from santa claus? how about the $5 i spend every time i want to watch a pay per view movie? or the $40 when my boyfriend wants to watch one of those silly wrestling specials? And don't get me started on the prices for pr0n!

    TV has never been free for consumers. we pay for it, and we pay big. It might not look like a lot to someone who's making a six figure salary to bluster and spread FUD to the media, but to John Q. Public, $50 a month is a lot of money. Multiply that by the number of cable viewers in the country, and you get a nice fat number. I'm not sure how its all divvied up in the end, nor do i really care... if network exec salaries and stars getting $1 million a show are any indication, things aren't dire yet. (i realise not everyone pays that much for cable, and some pay more.. i'm just going by what i personally pay).

    And FYI: I've seldom actually watched a commercial since i was 12. the only ones i'll actually stay still for now are those funny blockbuster ones with the guinea pig and the rabbit.. those i love. So maybe you can take a clue from that? If you made commercials entertaining instead of annoying and loud, perhaps more people would watch them.

    Speaking of loud, that's another thing that pisses me off. Is it just me or have commercials gotten even LOUDER? I know they intentionally raise the volume a few knotches during commercials to get your attention, but it's at the point where as soon as the program cuts to commercial, i automatically hit 'mute'. Here's another hint: LOUDER ISN'T BETTER!

    And that's my rant for today, May 23, 2002.

    claudia
  • by Asprin (545477) <gsarnold@3.14yahoo.com minus pi> on Thursday May 23, 2002 @11:08AM (#3572639) Homepage Journal
    TV and radio advertising were based on 'sponsorship', not ads. Instead of a 22 minute show bookended and broken up by commercials, we had the "Alka-Seltzer Variety Hour" brought to you by "Alka-Seltzer" with the fizz that says "relief".

    We'll probably be back where we started with similar sorts of corporate sponsorship in a few years. I don't really think it would be so bad, mostly I just flip channels during commercial breaks anyway looking for cooler commercials to watch than the ones paying for the show I'm watching.

    Remember, in our universe, "Annoyance" is a conserved quantity - those wishing to advertise will certainly find ways to do so.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I've discovered these three talents from commercials. Nick Drake's "Pink Moon" was on the VW Cabriolet commercial. Devo's "It's A Beautiful World" was on a Target ad. Iggy Pop's "Lust For Life" was some car commercial. The radio stations around here suck and I never really got into trading MP3s. After getting the CDs from the Record Exchange, I learned that: the chick at the counter *really* likes Nick Drake; that Target ad is the ultimage irony about the "world we live in"; and some car company is using the same song that was on the "Trainspotting" soundtrack. Anyway, I'm just saying that I WILL PAY ATTENTION to commercials... if and only if they're well done. Think about it in these terms -- Carrot-Top: Delete; the Dell Guy: Delete; the Florida Orange Juice commercial with people dancing to a Brady Bunch song: SAVE. You know, advertisers should realise that with PVR and broadband, people will *share* their favorite commercials.

    simon adkins
    • I feel the same way. In fact, I've frequently wished my TiVo let me give thumbs up/down to commercials. That way I could tell those Jackasses at Old Navy that I'll never buy one of their products due to their moronic ads. OTOH, I'm more inclined to eat at Jack in the Box (in spite of the suckage of their food) because their commercials are hilarious. I just wanna be able to tell'em that!

      I'm a pretty hard-core TiVo user, but I frequently watch ads. I'm not sure *why* I do, but I do. Mostly I hit that FF button when I'm really into the show or when the commercial's obnoxious...like those fsckin' Ford commercials with dogoffal country music playing.
  • Broadcasters will have to be more creative in placing ads. You already see this on the cable news stations with overlay and sidebar ads. ITs too easy to zap serial ads. You'll have to pay a premium for ad-free channels, just as you have to on the InterNet.
  • Space Merchants (Score:2, Informative)

    by kk5wa (118020)
    Read "The Space Merchants" by Frederik Pohl.

    Written in 1952, about a world where advertising is king.

    If I were pessimistic about what the advertisers think their rights regarding commercials are, this book would be very prophetic.

  • Shouldn't the burden fall on the networks in this situation? As a viewer, I have not in any way signed a contract to view commercials. If a commercial is interesting, I will view it. The disturbing prevailing thought of the day is to give the content providers control over the mediums. Mp3 players, PVR's, where does control stop? Same logic behind Sony attempting to enforce digital music "security" in devices--leveraging their weight as a media content provider to "strongly encourage" security technology to prevent playing certain music. By having citizens nodding their heads saying "gee, it sounds fair to me--they should be compensated" means that media corporations already have a strong foothold and have warped the minds of many. Never mind the enormous privacy concerns--media companies seeking to obtain demographics forcefully.
  • by eyegor (148503) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @11:17AM (#3572718)

    You'd think that advertisers would get a clue.

    Before I bought my Tivo, I was taping shows. I fast forwarded through commercials then too. Nothing has changed in that regard for most people.

    If a commercial catches my eye while I'm fast-forwarding, I'll actually go back and watch it (usually if it has sufficient babe-content).

    I think that the music and television industry's current "Greed Fest" is going to come back and bite them in the ass.
  • How these Digital PVR's are worse than the 30-second skip button the the remote control for my VCR?

    Anyone? Anyone?

  • by meridoc (134765) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @11:20AM (#3572743)

    Okay, I'll admit it... I can't stand football, but I watched the Superbowl for the commercials! Why? Because they're interesting and (mostly) sorta clever.

    On the other hand, would tons and tons of "intersting" commercials really keep my attention? Doubtful. I don't even remember which commercials I liked from the superbowl, let alone what they were advertising.

  • "The free television that we've all enjoyed for so many years is based on us watching these commercials," said Jamie C. Kellner, chief executive of Turner Broadcasting. "There's no Santa Claus. If you don't watch the commercials, someone's going to have to pay for television and it's going to be you."

    Good. I want this. I'd gladly pay for the channels I watch. Then I'd only get the 10-15 channels I actually want, rather than the 100 or so I have to pay for to get the ones I want. The Beeb sustains 6 channels and umpteen radio stations on $9/month license fee. I'd gladly pay another £2-3/month for each channel I actually want, rather than the £35/month I pay now for what is mainly crap.

  • Ugh. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by NoMoreNicksLeft (516230) <john.oyler@c[ ]ast.net ['omc' in gap]> on Thursday May 23, 2002 @11:21AM (#3572756) Journal
    Did they ever stop to realize that maybe they're not even an industry worth having? Flawed business model perhaps?

    Examine the evidence:

    #1 Inability to prove that people actually are paying attention, or that they can influence spending in a significant way. Even if they can, are they being manipulative in an unethical way?

    #2 Advertising pollution becoming increasingly intrusive, even for products that are directly paid for by the consumer. Can't drive down the road without seeing billboards, watch a movie, even in a theatre. On and on and on...

    #3 They use money that might actually be used in more worthwhile ways by companies. Such as increased production, better employee benefits, R&D, planning for consequences... hell, you guys probably have a better idea than I do where the $$$ could go, including places that benefit consumers, employees AND shareholders.

    #4 The difficulty of drawing the line between advertising and fraudulent claims. Before you boo and hiss, are Miss Cleo's commercials on tv at 2am valid advertising? How low does she have to go before it isn't? How many in the past have sunk that low?

    #5 Existence of products that were market hits even without much of an ad campaign. Word of mouth and quality were good enough, and the product filled a real need (instead of trying to invent a dubious one).

    #6 The ability of advertisers to steal people's valuable time from them, even when they haven't expressly or implicitly agreed to give such time (unlike watching TV). Well maybe the ability isn't the bad thing, but their willingness to exploit such an ability is unbounded. Only fear of law and PR backlash keeps them in check, and then not always.

    Again, do we need this industry? If it disappears off the face of the earth, will we be so much poorer? The workers will adapt, find new employment, and our country would be stronger. And even if they don't deserve it, maybe a few idiots would get scammed less often.
    • The ability of advertisers to steal people's valuable time from them, even when they haven't expressly or implicitly agreed to give such time...

      Didn't you read your TV's EULA?

  • The implicit threat is that if we don't watch ads, we'll have to pay for TV. Fine. Makes sense - production has to be paid for. I see two possibilities.
    • Either, in effect, my cable bill doubles to pay for the 'free' channels, or I pick and chose ala cart.
    • In the former case, I damn well won't like commercials on a channel I'm paying for (remember the resistance when theaters tried/started showing commercials?). I'll feel perfectly justified in removing them; I'd also feel no qualms about trading to get a program on a channel, since I've paid for the right to watch that channel.
    • In the latter case, I'd be picky. I'd pay another $5-10/month for the Discovery family of channels; I wouldn't pay that for network TV. Either way, I become much more value-aware. If there is one show on a network (or even a family of channels) that I want to watch, I'd decide whether it's worth paying for the entire network, forever. I'd probably decide not; others may decide it's ok to have a friend tape that one show.

    Bottom Line: this is about control, not where the money comes from.
  • by Asprin (545477) <gsarnold@3.14yahoo.com minus pi> on Thursday May 23, 2002 @11:28AM (#3572816) Homepage Journal
    Does anyone know how Tivo and SonicBlue get the master TV programming schedules from the networks? NOTE: I'm not asking how *my* Tivo gets the schedule from Tivo central, but how Tivo central gets them from the TV networks. Are they sent out from the networks electronically using standard protocols as soon as the schedule is set or do the Tivo guys go out and buy the TV Guide every week and type 'em all in by hand? For that matter how does TV Guide get them?

    The reason I ask is that it seems to me that TV schedules function in an analagous fashion with DNS and IP addresses for web sites. Namely, if my Tivo doesn't know when the Simpsons is on, it can't record it for me. Is there any possibility the networks could try to sabotage PVRs by restricting access to their schedules?
  • The solution is simple: If you want people to watch the ads, make ads worth watching. When an ad is interesting or funny, I will go back and watch it a second time with my TiVo's replay feature. When it insults my intelligence or is otherwise annoying, I skip it.

    Good ads are out there, you know. If they weren't, AdCritic would still be operational. Instead, it was a victim of its own success, so popular that the guys who ran it couldn't afford the bandwidth bills and had to cease operations [yes, I know it will be reborn soon, but probably in a form inferior to the original]. Though why they didn't try to get a 5 or 10 cent payment from advertisers per viewing/downloading of the ads they hosted is beyond me-- people were willing to sit and wait for a COMMERCIAL to download, for the specific purpose of WATCHING the thing-- probably more than once-- for God's sake.

    ~Philly
  • by happyclam (564118) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @11:35AM (#3572879)

    Unless our government is full of idiots or media cronies (and it is, unfortunately), then here's how I see this "problem" shaking out:

    The "entertainment" industry, which has been bloated with crap and getting fatter and fatter every year as wannabes climb over each other to get something published, will stop making so much money indiscriminately. The cash cow of advertising, now getting old and sick, will die off, and "free" TV will disappear. (I have not had "free" TV since 1989, when I first signed myself up for cable.)

    The money in TV will shift from the producers of shows to the companies that deliver those shows--the makers of the DVRs and the suppliers of the DVR services. These companies, in order to keep profits high and unable to make fortunes on advertising, will charge consumers for their services, and they will use that money to fund programs that consumers will actually watch.

    These services will license their most popular programs to the other vendors, and those vendors will probably charge premiums (pay-per-record, premium fees for non-native shows, etc.) for them to their clients.

    In this way, the services will compete on overall quality of ALL their content--they won't have 18 hours to fill with crap every day, so they won't have the burden of those costs.

    This is a Very Good Thing because it actually democratizes the content industry. Independent producers will be able to produce and license their shows to the DVR service companies. Big studios will still produce and license content, but they won't have the overhead of providing all the crap they do now.

    All this assumes that Congress and our courts manage to keep their heads out of their arses and don't play lackey to the Chicken Little studios.

  • [adjective] successors to the [product] that eliminate the frustration of [action accomplished by product] have crossed a popularity threshold, raising alarm among [group or groups of greedy, old, rich white men] who see the devices as a threat to the economics of [industry that refuses to change with the times].

    I've got one!:

    "Internal-combustion successors to the horse and buggy that eliminate the frustration of traveling moderate distances have crossed a popularity threshold, raising alarm among buggy whip manufacturers who see the devices as a threat to the economics of the entire horse-beating-implement industry."

    Now you try!

    ~Philly
  • pay-by-the-show? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cheesyfru (99893) on Thursday May 23, 2002 @12:20PM (#3573219) Homepage
    A lot of people complain about cable, saying "I'm paying for 150 channels when I only actually use 5 of them". With the onset of digital cable and satellite, along with pay-per-view, I think a more sustainable model for the future is "micropayment pay-per-view". Want a season pass to Boston Public? Sure, it's $1 per episode with unskippable ads, or $2 per episode without ads. We'll give you a 10% discount if you order the whole season at once.

    Why would this work? For most people, it'd be cheaper or at most the same as what they're already paying. If they go on vacation for a couple weeks, either it doesn't cost them anything, or they'll be able to catch up on the shows when they get back. For the networks, they get fine-grained details of what people are watching, and will be able to easily manage their schedules. They could have special promotions for free showings of good but unpopular shows. And they'd be freed from the competition amongst the other networks for prime slots.
    • Re:pay-by-the-show? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Kombat (93720)
      With the onset of digital cable and satellite, along with pay-per-view, I think a more sustainable model for the future is "micropayment pay-per-view"

      Careful - this may not fly. Consider Canada. We're legally not allowed to pick and choose whatever channels we want, because of the CRTC's (Canada's FCC) Canadian content regulations. Cable providers are legally prohibited from delivering us a package of channels that contains less than n% Canadian content. So while I'm allowed to say "I want CBS, NBC, and ABC", I'll also be forced to pay for CBC, ATV, and MuchMusic.

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