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Television Media

Nielsen Will Measure TV ratings Among DVR Users 133

Posted by timothy
from the watching-you-watching-britney dept.
prostoalex writes "TV ratings publisher Nielsen is one company that got affected by the digital video recorder boom. With 7 million households recording TV shows and watching them on their own schedules, the concept of primetime changes, and the audience reporting is becoming skewed. So now Nielsen is launching a special program for DVR households, which would allow advertisers and TV executives to track the popularity of TV programs. Nielsen plans to distribute paper diaries among the households that use digital video recorder. Last time I did a Nielsen TV rating diary, they paid $5 a week."
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Nielsen Will Measure TV ratings Among DVR Users

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  • Torrents? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Laivincolmo (778355) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @08:52PM (#10809829)
    I wonder if they'll ever start surveying torrent downloaders of tv shows... :)
    • by Hatta (162192) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @09:01PM (#10809874) Journal
      I wonder if they'll ever start surveying torrent downloaders of tv shows... :)

      You misspelled subpoenaing.
    • Re:Torrents? (Score:1, Informative)

      This wouldn't be terribly hard to do on an automatic basis, as long as you had access to a good directory of torrents.

      Just connect to each of the trackers in question, note which IPs have completed downloads of the shows you're interested in, and correlate this with your records of other trackers*.

      * Mass lawsuit against your fans optional.
    • Re:Torrents? (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Actually www.tvtorrents.net already has those stats - look in the 'completes' column.
    • Remember one thing... NMR could not care less what you download... they care what you watch. Which is also the point of the DVR stuff (unchanged from the days when I worked there oh so many years ago) is the same as with VCR playback. They care what you actually have your eyeballs on, not what you recorded (or downloaded in this case).
    • Re:Torrents? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by MikeBabcock (65886) <mtb-slashdot@mikebabcock.ca> on Sunday November 14, 2004 @12:42AM (#10810972) Homepage Journal
      I downloaded all the episodes of Alias seasons 1, 2 and 3. I plan to do so for 4 when it comes out as well. Why? Because some kind person makes HDTV versions available -- which are higher quality than the DVDs I bought of the same, and I don't own an HDTV TV; I watch them on my computer.

      Yes, I bought the DVDs -- why? Because I want to give them a few bucks toward the next season. Vote with your wallet.
      • Are you sure they're higher quality, even after compression to DivX/XviD?
        • Go download them yourself.

          Don't forget that DVDs are MPEG-2 compressed as well; they're not "perfect" either.

          According to mplayer, the HDTV versions I have are:

          VIDEO: [XVID] 624x352 24bpp 23.976 fps 951.5 kbps (116.1 kbyte/s)

          AUDIO: 48000 Hz, 2 ch, 16 bit (0x10), ratio: 14000->192000 (112.0 kbit)

          Personally, they look amazing -- and I'm picky about video compression artifacts.
    • by severoon (536737)

      I think this is a great idea. It's just a shame that they have to use paper and pencil, because I understand that's a notoriously bad way to collect data. If only they had a computer-like device connected to the TV that received every remote click so they could know exactly what's going on...

      Oh well, I guess that's a pretty ridiculous idea, huh?

      • Actually, they do have such devices. I'm a Nielson family right now for overnight ratings. When Nielson came out there were about 12 techs that came out and put boxes on every TV, VCR, DVD player, video game console in the house (had to open all the cases and tap into the tuner chips). They ran cable to a central modem, and every night (around 2 or 3 am) it calls into the central office and reports what we watched during the previous day.

        • You're a Nielson family?

          Cool. Keep an eye posted on this thread--I'll get back to you with all the shows you should watch and not watch.

          Heh. I bet you get that all the time, huh?

  • Already signed up. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 13, 2004 @08:52PM (#10809832)
    My DirecTiVo asked me awhile ago if I wanted to participate. I don't mind sharing data on what TV I watch, and if it will report it automatically to help the shows I do enjoy be renewed and stay on the air, I think it's great. I've also done a radio diary once, it was a pain to keep track of. This will make the process a lot easier.
    • by MBCook (132727)
      So did I. No only do I not mind people tracking what I'm watching, I WANT them to to monitor it. Anything I can to do to try to show how little I like much of the innane and stupid TV that's on these days (and to help them realize some of those little gems that I don't want to ever dissapear).

      That said, they said that they would call me if I was in (IIRC) and I've yet to be called.


      • Now that it requires so little effort to give them the data, perhaps more people will do as you are and give it for the sake of improving the content.

        But five dollars a week? If you're telling me that up until now most of the data has been generated by people who were willing to fill out a load of forms for five dollars a week, then I think we may have discovered why US tv is so dreadful. Its been skewed towards the tastes of the five dollars a week people.

        When I lived in the States, there were two t
    • by xanderwilson (662093) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @10:01PM (#10810152) Homepage
      Even without that agreement, Tivo keeps track of what people watch, but says they do it entirely anonymously. Which is why they got to know the "most replayed' moment during the Superbowl half time. I'm surprised Neilson doesn't just pay for that data directly from Tivo. They did that, and I'd even Tivo the Whedon episodes I have on DVD.

      Alex.
      • by MBCook (132727)
        They probably want much more specific data that the anonomized and agregated data TiVo collects. My guess is that most of the TiVo data is just "person X has 31 season passes and 12 hours on their thing and watches an average of 4 hours per day". I wouldn't be suprised if info like the Superbowl thing is only because they tracked that specific show. I'm not sure how valuable that kind of info would be on most shows.
        • I'm not sure how valuable that kind of info would be on most shows.

          I would say very . It would tell them which commercials are good enough in fast-forward (or "only see an instant then rewind and play it" like my ReplayTV, and the TiVo can be programmed to have a 30-second skip as well but it seems to keep "turning off" the setting so we have to keep programming it...), and which commercials are ignored.

          I tend to watch most of the ads for other shows, which tend to appear at the end of the commerc

      • Tivo can negotiate how much they want for the data they collect. Typical Joe Public can't because another Joe Public will take the $5 and be content since they don't see it as valuable anyway. Tivo knows exactly how much it's worth. And it's more than $5 per viewer per week.

        Just look at how much various shows can pay their cast and demand from advertisers. That kind of information is worth a lot of money.

        Nielson is using a limited number of viewers to extrapolate the larger population. Tivo has acces
    • I found the radio diary quite easy. My car radio got stolen so when I got the radio diary, I just filled out "Did not listen" for seven days and sent it back when they asked. Easiest six bucks ever.

    • Yeah, I have Tivo and authorized the same. I don't see the need for a paper diary when they can just tell them what my season passes are. Says a lot to have a TV show as a season pass. Basically you really like it.

      Now maybe they will get a clue that they should bring back Futurama. That and not cancell any great shows anymore like Futurama, Farscape, two guys and a girl, family guy, etc...

      Im soooo tired of awesome shows coming out and them getting a good following, but the non-cable channels executive
    • by whmac33 (524094)
      I just did a Nielsen survey.

      They tracked a lot more than what was tuned to on the TV. They had columns for each person in the house and when they were watching and how old and what sex each person is. They even wanted to know what the tv was on when we weren't watching.

      Nielsen isn't just total market share. It's demographics and stuff... Tivo can't automatically monitor that stuff.... I don't think.

      Also it had a section for what shows I used the myth box to record when I was watching live tv.
  • by 0WaitState (231806) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @08:53PM (#10809840)
    Nielsen cheerfully tells you what shows are watched, but won't tell you whether the audience kept the commercials on, or whether they muted them, skipped forward, or changed channels for 3 minutes.

    Actually reporting what commercials are viewed to completion with sound-on would radically change televsion programming and advertising.

    • I thought one of the plusses of DVRs was the ability to skip commercials, what use would this be at the Television Bureau of Advertising's annual research symposium. If I had a DVR I'd skip all the commercials and get my daily dose of advertising through /. banners and such
    • Nielsen cheerfully tells you what shows are watched, but won't tell you whether the audience kept the commercials on, or whether they muted them, skipped forward, or changed channels for 3 minutes.

      Actually reporting what commercials are viewed to completion with sound-on would radically change televsion programming and advertising.

      FWIW, Tivos have the ability to do all of this, assuming of course that the owner of the Tivo uses the stock remote instead of a universal remote, and most Tivo owners do use

    • reporting what commercials are viewed to completion with sound-on would radically change televsion programming and advertising

      Meaning, more product placement and advertising tightly integrated into program content.

      It would be a return to the formula developed for radio broadcasting in the thirties and forties, and television in the fifties, with the advertising agencies firmly in control of what could be broadcast.

      The system worked well when it supported quality programing of the sort that only PBS and

  • Good thing it's just paper...

    I can just lie about my pr0^H^H^H Trek watching.
    • Re:Whew... (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      No, you have it backwards. You're supposed to ^H the MORE pathetic one.
  • by Alcimedes (398213) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @08:59PM (#10809867)
    Please, if you have a chance to sign up for these services, do so. And watch decent television. The sooner we can get the Reality TV craze off the air the better.
    • Yeah, Europe and Canada are nice ... :)
    • Unfortunately... (Score:4, Informative)

      by jangobongo (812593) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @09:26PM (#10809999)
      You can't just "sign up" to be a Neilson "family". They have to contact you. They study demographics and then invite only certain qualifying households to participate.

      The nice thing is, though, if you have any problems with your TVs or cable (etc) service, they will send someone over to repair or fix the problem. Anything to keep you watching... We got free service on our TVs that way.

      A negative is that you start to become a slave to your TV, because you're "voting" for your favorite shows. Gotta stay home and watch, you know. I always wondered how many Neilson "families" would turn on the TV to certain shows/channels, even when no one was physically there in ffront of the TV to watch.
      • You can't just "sign up" to be a Neilson "family". They have to contact you. They study demographics and then invite only certain qualifying households to participate.


        Hence the reason he said if you have a CHANCE to, then sign up for it.

        Not everyone sign up for it.
    • The sooner we can get the Reality TV craze off the air the better.

      I have DirecTV and a DVR. Hundreds of channels, all time-shifted. Watch what I want when I want. History, Discovery, Sci-Fi, Bravo, Trio, A&E, TechTV, Cartoon, Boomerang, VH1 A, B, C, & D, seventeen PBS nets, and Alison Mack in Smallville new once a week and seven more old in syndication. All the producers of Reality TV shows would have to band together, dress up like Carmen Miranda, and set off an M-80 in my living room before
  • by thewldisntenuff (778302) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @09:00PM (#10809869) Homepage
    That they sent me the books with like $20 already inside.....

    I never did complete them, but I always hoped they'd send more...:)

    -thewldisntenuff
  • by AllenChristopher (679129) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @09:05PM (#10809896)
    Reality television and the rest of the dreck suddenly makes a lot more sense if we're surveying people who are willing to spend the time writing down everything they watch for $5 a week.

    I thought they used special boxes... I guess that only worked when the television landscape was more uniform.
    • by ke4roh (590577) *
      I did a paper diary at Nielson's request some years ago - perhaps in 2000 - and they paid a whopping $1 for the data. We wrote down what shows we actually watched, those that were on but nobody was particularly watching, and the shows we liked that we didn't get a chance to watch. We also noted which shows we recorded (by VCR at the time) for later viewing. We didn't expend effort watch everything we like, we just did our usual stuff.

      I imagine they have different tiers - people paid $1 are differently m
  • by sdo1 (213835) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @09:05PM (#10809900) Journal
    I had regularly TiVo'd the live-action version of "The Tick". When it was canceled, I remembered reading news articles about the time it was on and how that killed it in the ratings. And I, a TiVo user, had absolutely NO CLUE when it was actually broadcast. None. All I knew was sometime during the week a new episode showed up on the Now Playing list, so when I had a bit of spare time, I watched it.

    It's good that they're taking this step. Maybe some otherwise decent shows will show higher ratings now.

    -S
  • by icebike (68054) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @09:15PM (#10809952)
    Of course they are only likely to get information from people they can easily find, such as Tivo Customers and Sat TV companies who supply boxes with recording cabpabilities.

    They will totally miss those using Mythtv ( http://www.mythtv.org/ [mythtv.org] ) or Freevo ( http://freevo.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net] ) or any other home brew solution.
  • by Fear the Clam (230933) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @09:15PM (#10809953)
    Nielsen plans to distribute paper diaries among the households that use digital video recorder.

    I got a call from the Nielsen survey guy this morning (who in hell calls at 9:07 on a Saturday morning?) asking if we wanted to take part in the DVR survey. He specifically told me that with the DirecTivo, other than signing the permission for them to monitor the shows I watched/recorded, we wouldn't have to do anything.

    With luck, this will result in better data than last time. Last year we were asked to fill out a paper diary, but my wife was hogging the television all week watching the baseball playoffs, so that skewed the results.
  • by G4from128k (686170) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @09:24PM (#10809988)
    As a veteran time-shifter, I can only hope (but not hold my breath) that this service might convince broadcasters not to set aggressive limits on shifted viewing of "prime-time" shows. Once the media moguls understand that many viewers don't live life in 30-minute slots, they may be less likely to prevent time-shifting. On the other hand, I tend to time shift by weeks or months and I could see broadcasters setting the system to limit viewing to when 99% of viewers are watching with recording expiry times of only a few days.

    Perhaps its time to stockup on pre-broadcast flag equipment.
  • by FunWithHeadlines (644929) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @09:24PM (#10809991) Homepage
    I don't understand. Why ask people to keep a diary? Isn't the whole idea of a DVR that your viewing habits are being digitally tracked automatically? A diary is weak since it depends on people keeping up with it, filling it out accurately, and so on. So why use that here? Just get the cable companies to release the data that they must be collecting in the aggregate (if not in the specific, for all I know).

    Or are there rules against doing that with digital subscribers? I've assumed from the moment I got a DVR from Time Warner that if they wanted to they could track my viewing habits on a second-by-second basis, which beats the pants off any diary method.

    And yes, Time Warner has by now caught on to how I like old movies and Star Trek...

    • I have a ReplayTV box and it definitely sends stuff back to mommy. Since I started having it dial to a Linux box in my house to use my DSL connection, I started capturing all network traffic to and from it when it connects at night. In a typical night, it gets about 150KB of info and sends about 100KB.

      The only things that Neilsen can't get like this in knowledge of who in the family is watching and where they fit in the demographic. So a 40-year old like me might gets ads for Britney or Polygrip, when

    • by Anonymous Coward
      as i sit in a time warner building at a time warner PC I can tell you that your DVR recordings are done locally and are thus not being logged.

      now Icontrol or On demand... that is a different story as it is streamed from a server, so we have server like stats for it. Just like you might on a webserver.
    • I don't understand. Why ask people to keep a diary? Isn't the whole idea of a DVR that your viewing habits are being digitally tracked automatically? A diary is weak since it depends on people keeping up with it, filling it out accurately, and so on. So why use that here? Just get the cable companies to release the data that they must be collecting in the aggregate (if not in the specific, for all I know).

      Near as I'm aware, a Nielson household is more than just some Joe/Jane with a TV. They are trying to
  • I have the Direct Tivo unit. It has absolutely changed the way my family watches tv. A few weeks ago we were offered to submit to be one the families for this. If you have Direct Tivo you may have the option at the main menu to join in also.
  • time warner? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by evilmousse (798341) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @09:39PM (#10810065) Homepage Journal

    I always wondered what time warners' cable boxes were capable of sending back to TW. Does anyone know if they do any accounting of what's watched?

    I don't see why TW would have to limit itself to DVR either, surely all digital boxes are capable.

    Go ahead, sell accounting of my viewing habits--it's one of the few circumstances I welcome it. TW Prices here in WI are just beyond rediculous, it would be nice to get back to being just short of it. =P
  • by Cirrius (304487)
    Maybe the next Firefly equivalent won't get cancelled mid-season.
  • Who needs ratings? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ScrewMaster (602015) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @09:53PM (#10810117)
    They should immediately cancel the few solidly-written, well-produced, well-acted shows currently on the air, continue producing thousands more hours of video dreck, those vacuous "series" that are as indistinguishable from each other as they are from white noise, and save themselves the worry about "ratings". It's what they really want to do anyways: TV executives seem continually surprised when people actually watch a quality production. It was predicted that Star Trek: The Next Generation would be too "highbrow" for the American audience and would fail miserably (this from some of the folks at Paramount, no less.) I mean, good heavens, a Shakespearean actor in the lead role? That it became a true hit series just blew them away, and that it was a hit among people of all walks of life, not just technojocks, nerds, and old-line Trekkies like me was especially shocking to them.

    I mean ... what was the whole point of denaturing the education system in this country to the point where college graduates can't write in full sentences if not to produce a generation of mindless boobs incapable of appreciating a good literary reference or understand humor any less subtle than a Mack truck. Apparently that effort has failed because we do still appreciate a good show with high production values, on those rare occasions when we see one.
    • It was predicted that Star Trek: The Next Generation would be too "highbrow" for the American audience and would fail miserably (this from some of the folks at Paramount, no less.)

      Well, Paramount's certainly got no worries about Star Trek being 'highbrow' these days...

      • Yeah, no kidding. I've been a Trek fan since the original series on but, honestly, after The Next Generation finished its run they should have just left it at that. Between Voyager, DS9 and Enterprise, it's hard to pay attention any more. I mean I watched Voyager largely because of Jeri Ryan's front-side bus, I watched DS-9 because of Terry Farrell (pretty much the same reason) and Enterprise ... well I really don't watch Enterprise. Maybe if they accidentally opened a a temporal rift and sucked Seven-o
  • Last time I did a Nielsen TV rating diary, they paid $5 a week.

    I think we now know why TV caters to the lowest common denominator - $5/wk to give up my privacy and maybe manually fill out paper records of what I watch? Only people with nothing better to do are going to participate.

    Just think, if someone were to hack the Nielson system, and instead of doing it to be a 1337 B1FF, no bragging rights, just subtle social engineering, we could get some good shows that last.

    No more cancelation of a good show
    • There was a movie (comedy of course) along those lines a while back, some guy (played by Danny Divito IIRC) who was hack tv writer or producer or some such managed to get a list of the names and adress of all the neilson households and send them tickets for a 'cruise' they had won. Of course the 'cruise' was a sham and the boat took the neilson families all over the place except home while this guy hired people to stay in the neilson houses and keep the tv tuned only to shows he was responsible for.
      Had
  • ME: Boss, I'm slammed and I don't have time for any additional projects.

    BOSS: Ok. Why don't you start writing down everything you're doing.

    ME: And how is that going to save me any time?

    People by DVRs because they want to save time. I doubt many will give that up for $5 after paying $200-500 to get it.
  • by thoughtlover (83833) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @10:09PM (#10810180)
    We recently got rid of the Niesen 'box' in the house I live in. We had four roommates when we started and they didn't really participate. We also know that we are in the two most difficult groups to market to (young women and 25-35 year-old men - yeah, you read that right!) - yet, Nielsen didn't really pay much attention us. I remember a friend who was also doing the survey and he said that they would call his house if they weren't sticking to pressing the 'confirm button' on what looked like antiquated gear (circa 1970's) - the box wold start flashing all of it's lights in a crazed pattern if the person who changed the TV channel didn't also confirm the change with the Nielsen remote. One day, the Nielsen rep came to their door with $50 asking them nicely to be more diligent participants. He did that every month for about three months since they kept it up. At the beginning, they gave us $200 and paid for the monthly land-line phone fee (for their equipment to talk to the local server.)

    All of the experience made me curious. I wondered why it took them so long to switch to something more hi-tech. Cable boxes have been out since the 70's. I remember watching Jaws on HBO when I was a kid. We could have easily been a Nielsen house then if they got wise earlier. We didn't give them any useful information in the hopes they would come back to us and say 'it's so important for our statistic pool, here's another $200.'

    They never did. We did get Dish with a DVR so that was a great reason to ditch the 'UFO' that roosted on our TV.

    One thing they did do was break our VCR when they opened it up to install their sensing equipment. They replaced it with a new one, and then, when they packed up, they gave us a new one in the box because the technician needed to install it at a new house. I think it was refurbished because there was a sticker on the plastic inside that said 'Do Not Return To Retailer' - maybe Nielsen gets them in bulk.

    We probably gave them more bunk data than usable. In the end, I guess I'd have to say that we came out on top because I didn't own a VCR with stereo inputs until they came along.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm posting anon for this...

    We volunteered for the measuring when it showed up in our DirecTivo Showcase a few weeks ago. Yesterday they called us during dinnertime and asked us questions for about 10 minutes about the makeup of our family.

    We're happy to volunteer, if only to support the shows that we like to watch.
  • I was one of the TiVO users selected for this program, but since I work in advertising I was disqualified pretty early in the interview process. I was really looking forward to it too.
  • wilco tango foxtrot?!?!

    paper and pencil to document usage of a digital product

    *Shakes head* Not that I have a better way of getting data from different DVR platforms, but it still reeks of ridiculous...

    e.

    • WHISKY (Score:3, Informative)

      I think you meant Whisky Tango Foxtrot

      For Reference:

      Alpha Bravo Charlie Delta
      Echo Foxtrot Golf Hotel
      India Juliet Kilo Lima
      Mike November Oscar Papa
      Quebec Romeo Sierra Tango
      Uniform Victor Whisky X-ray Zulu
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This SO explains what tv companies are doing. Their data is based on people who are willing to fill out a paper jounrla of their viewing activities for 5 bucks a week - i.e. who are fucked up enough to sacrifice their priuvacy for a measly sum that is not even a compensation for the time spent on it, even when you discard any notions of surveillance.

    Let's see, $5 buys how much of my spare time? Maybe 10 minutes if I am generous, less if it's a task I don't like.

    They could NEVER convince me to hand them ov
  • perhaps this may give people a better portrail of g4techtv ratings and stop cancelling shows and firing show hosts [kevinrose.com] like the screensavers [thescreensavers.com].

  • Many Direct TV users have a permanent phone connection, primarily for ordering Pay Per View. But, it could also phone home time spent on each channel, at regular intervals. I've often wondered why this hasn't been done (if it isn't already being done).
  • I thought that tivo was already doing this.

    wouldn't it be easier to just pay tivo to forward their database to nielsen?
  • About 9 AM today I got a call from Nielsen letting me know I was selected for the TiVo program with them. Asked a few questions and said I was in. One question I have is a technical one. First, does it only count if you watch or does it also count what you record? What if you watch a suggestion? Time limit on ratings, I could watch a recorded show a year later? Lastly, what about when you have multiple tivos?
  • I'm participating in that very program and at least for us, there are no paper diaries. We signed a document that allowed Neilsen to utilize the data TiVo downloads from our recorder on a nightly basis. The reason I agreed to this violation of my privacy is that it allows me to have a direct impact on the shows that I like.
  • Choice of PVR (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Baseclass (785652)
    I'm surprized that here on Slashdot (the epitome of geekiness) more people don't use homebrew PVRs like MythTV [mythtv.org] or Freevo [freevo.org].

    While I may be a paranoid tinfoil hat wearing nut who doesn't want Tivo knowing what I watch and rewind, my reasoning is dictated more by the fact that I like to customize my box, add functionality, watch videos I download, and freely distribute content to every PC in my house.

    The WAF (wife approval factor) is quite high, and it's definitely a hit with the kids. Add the fact that I've

    • I'm surprized that here on Slashdot (the epitome of geekiness) more people don't use homebrew PVRs like MythTV or Freevo.

      It all boils down to time. I looked into setting up a Linux solution, but I didn't have a whole lot of free time on my hands to put togather a box, figure out how to configure the software, test it, etc. Plus I've got digital cable, and I wasn't sure if the software you mention can work with the digital cable box. It took me a trip to Best Buy and about 10 minutes to install and confi

  • I'm Currently doing a Nielson diary this week, when they called they asked if I have a DVR, which I do (Myth DOES count!) The diary itself though is POORLY Designed. This is not the first time I've done a Tv Diary, its just a list of days and times where you list the channel watched...with an additional page at the end for shows recorded but watched later... theres no way to list shows from two months ago that I've recorded, but not watched... and they even call a DVR a DVD (digital video Device) so
  • Last Post!

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