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Television Media

Calling Out TiVo 372

ephraim writes "Forbes has an article by John C. Dvorak which summarizes the TiVo and similar devices as follows: "It's a way to steal programming." He justifies this remark by claiming that the main purpose of a TiVo is to "skip commercials" that pay for TV content. He also seems upset that people can use these devices to record content onto a hard drive without paying royalties to the content companies. Never mind the fact that the article has numerous factual errors (Dvorak claims that TiVo systems cost $500 and implies that the systems are difficult to use; he also makes a ridiculous comparison between MP3 file-sharing and TiVo). This guy seems to never have heard of the Betamax court case which legitimized time-shifting. "
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Calling Out TiVo

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    I paid for my TV. I pay a monthly fee to receive cable. At no time did I sign an agreement promising that I would watch the commercials that are on during my show. So where does it say I have an obligation of any kind? Get it through your head: I do not exist solely to watch your commercials and buy your products. If you want me to buy something, make a quality product and don't try to rape your customers for it.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    If you read the court decisions or the Constitution, you'll see that U. S. copyrights and patents are not granted as a recognition of any form of property rights in works. They are simply a utilitarian incentive to encourage the production of more works for the benefit of the public.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    a) everyone will get tivo, and that will be the end of free broadcast television as we know it.

    b) tivo will cut a deal and the money will go to the broadcasters who pay for the shows. i.e., pay extra for no ads, or pay nothing & watch ads.

    There is no other alternative. Those of you who buy Tivo thinking you're gonna stick it to the networks and still be able to watch your Lone Gunmen episodes or whatever shit it is you like watching for free are dreaming.

    Personally I'd love to see the ads disappear and have people pay for each show they watch. Then the advertisers wouldn't have so much control over your minds. You might actually think about what you're watching. Or you might even do something instead of watching TV, like [shudder] read a book.
  • by mosch ( 204 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @08:42PM (#283713) Homepage
    While I realize that columnists purposefully generate controversy in order to gain share, Dvorak's column on PVRs crossed the line from conversial to just plain wrong. He makes ignorant assumptions as to the use of the units based on no evidence, scientific or anecdotal. I'm quite surprised that Forbes would wish to be associated with the author of such drivel.

    The comparison of a PVR to mp3 file sharing is completely invalid. PVRs do not offer any method for obtaining content illicitly. They also do not offer a method to distribute the saved content to others, with the exception of "save to VCR", which even the MPAA would agree is legal.

    He seems to think that the only feature of a PVR is 'commercial skip'. Obviously he doesn't have a PVR, or if he does, he hasn't had it for very long. PVRs offer a convenient way to regularly record favorite programming. Your favorite shows are recorded, whether you're there or not, thus allowing the PVR owner to enjoy the original, unedited content, which they already subscribe to, at their leisure.

    Dvorak isn't too good with money, apparently. He insists that TiVo costs $10 a month. Anybody who has half a brain will instead opt for the $200 lifetime subscription, which is to cover the cost of the guide data, and software upgrades for their PVR. He should also consider shopping at a different electronics store, as his 'average' price of $500/unit is about $100-150 higher than the average price I've seen for 30 hour units.

    One valid point that Dvorak makes is that adding a TiVo to the system adds complexity. It seems like it "should" be complicated, but in reality it's not. Toss the TiVo between your signal source (cable box, or DTV reciever) and your receiver or TV. Done. Pretty difficult, eh? As for the complexity of the remote control, it actually simplifies things nicely. I actually prefer the TiVo interface to the interface presented to me by my DTV receiver. The only awkwardness is in recording pay-per-view events, which TiVo doesn't have guide data for, and can't do an on-screen purchase for.

    Dvorak describes the fact that a PVR requires access to a phone line to be "a hassle in itself". The fact that after setup, the phone is used only when you're not using it (usually late at night), and for short periods of time is ignored. He also rants about a bug in one PVR implementation as a reason to ignore the technology. If a single problem is reason to ignore a technology, then I'll assert that a single column is reason to ignore a pundit.

    Perhaps the most amusing show of Dvorak's ignorance is his implication that PVR technology only exists because broadcasters are unaware of it. Either CBS, AOL-Time Warner, Discovery, Showtime, Disney and NBC aren't broadcasters, or he's just dead wrong. They aforementioned companies are all equity investors in TiVo, Inc.

    In the second to last paragraph, Dvorak accidentally let's slip his real motivation for his rant. He had trouble getting a ReplayTV unit to work.

    Apparently this article is what happens when Dvorak has an electronics malfunction and an article due simultaneously.

    "Don't trolls get tired?"

  • by abischof ( 255 ) <alex.spamcop@net> on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @07:40PM (#283715) Homepage
    I soon plan on discontinuing my Verizon service. And, I would like to buy a TiVO, but I realize that it requires a phone connection. So.. is there any way to get a TiVo that can make use of Ethernet, such as from my DSL? I mean, it's not like I don't have 'net access -- it's just not via the local monopoly.

    Through Google, I did run across a TiVo Ethernet [] project, but I'd like some way to get those results without hacking up my TiVo -- I just want it to work!

    Alex Bischoff
  • John Dvorak has always paid other people to write the articles that appear under his name. Why did he once sound like he knew one and of an Amiga from the other? Because he hired someone who knew what they were talking about to write the article.

    Dvorak is a brand; he's obviously whoring that brand to use factual innacuracies on behalf of the highest bidder is more profitable than trying to provide useful information for the average person.

  • I make it a point to start watching shows 20 min late much of the time so I can fast forward the ads. But I almost always end up rewinding and watching an ad or two for something that looks interesting. If it is another show that I might watch or a movie that I might want to see or whatever. Ok I skip all the ads for things that I don't want to buy but I wasn't going to buy that stuff anyhow.
  • DishPlayer
  • okay, but you should realize and face facts:

    Targeted advertising means, all of your commercials will be for:
  • by AxelBoldt ( 1490 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @07:42PM (#283724) Homepage
    All those big time investors are in there to make sure that Tivo doesn't get a commercial-skip button (which it doesn't have). They are scared.

    I hope that soon somebody comes out with a Tivo-like device which skips all the program downloading crap and just gives us what we want: commercial skipping.

    I guess for now all we are left with are VCR's that can edit out commercials.


  • by Malc ( 1751 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @07:05PM (#283727)
    "It's a way to steal programming." He justifies this remark by claiming that the main purpose of a TiVo is to "skip commercials" that pay for TV content.

    Well maybe the TV companies need to find a better way of raising money. I'm sick of the constant barrage of crap, ignorant advertising. Either they think I'm very stupid, or the majority that they are targetting is very stupid... I'm hoping it's the former. If it's the latter, then the standard of advertising is a very worrying statement about society. Whatever, I don't watch "normal" television anymore, and part of that is due to the barrage of commercial shit.

    In recent years I've lived in Britain, Canada and the US. The highest quality television in these countries was on channels that raised their money via other means.
  • Below is the full text of a letter I sent to fortune magazine, expressing my opinion of this idiocy.:

    To Whom it May Concern,

    Mr. Dvorak's column is largely erronious in both fact and interpretation. On points of fact, the TiVo device does not necessarily cost $500, but is available for $300. It is also not difficult to use.

    Of greater significance are the errors of interpretation. Mr. Dvorak evidently believes that it is only lawful to watch television in the manner and at the time intended by the broadcasters. The courts have repeatedly held that this is not the case. One need only look at Sony vs. Universal (1983) for an example. The humble VCR does all of the things which Dvorak finds objectionable: It allows the viewer to record shows, watch them at the time and place of their choosing and watch as much or as little of the show as they wanted, including the ability to easily not watch commercials. It even allows shows to be watched repeatedly, and video tapes can be given away or sold, albeit illegally.

    The only difference with the TiVo is that it does these things electronically (which seems to be inherently scary), and that one can watch a show at the same time one is recording it, so that the time-delay is reduced.

    Mr. Dvorak appears to believe that because media producers include advertisements with their programming, the viewer is legally or morally obliged to watch them. This is clearly not so. Such stalwart mechanisms as newspapers and magazines have allowed readers to "turn the page" and thereby avoid advertizements. Even so, these are often distributed at no charge, despite having a much higher per-recipient cost than television. For that matter, viewers have always had the legal right to turn off or ignore their televisions during commercials.

    There seems to be a belief among many intelectual property commentators, including Mr. Dvorak, that the law ought to guarantee the continued profitability of any business model that is currently succesfull. If the technological or social environment reduces the profitability of a given industry, that industry is not necessarily a victim deserving of reparations. Imagine the world today if the Horsbreeders Association of America had succesfully sued automobile manufacturers for damages and gained an injunction against their manufacure?

    The above opinions are my own, and not those of my employer
    nor any other reasonable individual.

    Eric Anderson

    Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
    Carleton College, Northfield MN
  • Thanks for proving TobyWong's point.

    And thanks, Toby, for reminding me that it's been a long while since I've seen Reservoir Dogs.

  • Of all the people who deserve to be given
    the squeeze in this economy, television
    networks have got to rank in the top.
  • Of course more money != more quality. "Full House" couldn't cater lunch on "Monty Python's" entire budget (even adjusted for inflation). ;-)

  • I just spent 20 minutes trying to find evidence that he ever actually said this, but I can't find it. I can find lots of references to it, including one in a book, but no solid record that he wrote this.

    Is this a Mac urban legend, or is it the real deal?

  • If you're worried about stringing a wire across the room, just get one of those wireless phone jacks. Don't worry about getting the ones rated for high speed modems. Mine is the plain old crappy kind, and my TiVo connects at 14400. I haven't noticed any problems from that yet.
  • Ol' John sure is a riot:

    Other roadblocks to PVRs might save the day for networks and advertisers. For example, people are beginning to reevaluate spending high annual fees for unimportant services. Do you want to spend $120 a year to operate a TiVo unit just to skip a few commercials?

    The value of my time varies depending on what I do, but the top end is $120 / hour when I'm doing consulting work.

    With TiVo, I can skip the 15 minutes of commercials in a typical 1 hour program. If watching commercials is as onerous as consulting work, then I've recouped my investment in just 4 hours of use.

    Check out that cost-benefit ratio Mr. PC Expert Dvorak.

  • Mebbe Dvorak thinks that its unfair to broadcasters because he believes the TIVO allows a user to watch a broadcast live, and when commercials come up, they can fast forward right through them!

    I think TIVO would have a number of Cosmologists and their lawyers at their door and not just Dvorak!


  • They were thin-clients and AIX workstations.

    Dvorak caught a glimpse of something and misunderstood what it was. That shouldn't surprise anybody.

  • In the second to last paragraph, Dvorak accidentally let's slip his real motivation for his rant. He had trouble getting a ReplayTV unit to work.

    He tried to make it a replacement for his VCR, but after 8 straight hours of work, he still couldn't get it to blink "12:00", so he gave up.

  • Cause TiVo isn't charging you for the video recording you can do that without getting an account. Its charging you for compiling all the programming guide information and letting you dial up and download it every day. I don't have satellite or digital cable yet, so to not have to sit through the TV guide channel waiting, its definitely worth $10, and then to have it auto-record all my shows...thats worth alot more than the $300 I paid for my TiVo (with $200 in rebates) a far cry from $500!!

    One of the best purchases I've ever made.
  • Geez, I've been reading Dvorak since he had a column in one of the early PC magazines. Even back then folks were slamming him. I used to give him the benefit of the doubt since it seemed his column usually had at least one sensible idea (OK. So it was sort of like one grain of wheat in the bushel of chaff, but...). Recently, however, I've given up on him and am beginning to suspect that I was wrong all this time and that everything that people were saying about Dvorak all these years was true after all.


  • Dvorak has been such a loud-mouthed moron making wildly wrong predictions in the industry for so long you'd think that people would start to realize that he is just a loud-mouthed moron and doesn't understand IT at all.

    But they don't.

    The sheeple like to have loud, extravagant people leading them. They simply don't care that such people are rarely capable of rubbing neurons together.
  • by Detritus ( 11846 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @10:45PM (#283764) Homepage
    Interesting arguments.

    I think "free TV", in it's current form, is in a slow death spiral. About 85% of the population gets their TV via cable and/or DBS. The ratings for network programming have been declining for many years. Ad revenues haven't dropped at the same rate as the ratings, but I don't think that is going to last forever. The quality of network programming will continue to decline as they will have less money to spend on programming due to declining ad revenues. Why do you think "reality TV" is so hot? It's cheaper to produce than sitcoms or dramatic series. They have to compete with cable channels, which can outbid them for the rights to movies and have a more robust business model. Look at what has happened to AM radio over the last 50 years. The ratings and advertising revenues have declined to the point that it is a near-dead industry. With cable and DBS, the networks don't need their affiliates anymore. Instead of the networks paying the affiliates to carry the network feed, the networks will charge the affiliates a fee for access to the network feed. They may eventually drop the affiliates altogether and become cable channels.

  • Personally, I don't mind a bit if the broadcast TV model goes belly-up. Quite frankly, I think it provides very little that's positive to society. Television is basically a narcotic, and I don't see any reason why it should be subsidized with free radio spectrum. I don't think it should be illegal, but let it pay it's own way via cable and DSS subscription fees. None of the networks are even close to holding up their end of the "public service" agreement with society. Even with their huge public subsidy in the form of free spectrum, their business model is going to collapse. Bunch of losers, let the market eat them.
  • I could be mistaken here....but I know I pay nearly $40 a month for my cable service (I know others pay much more in some areas), and at least a small part of that goes back to the channels that broadcast the programming, and some part of that goes back to the networks that air them. Therefore, whether or not you are watching commercials is largely irrelevent, because the networks are still getting their funds.

    And let's not forget that it's the advertisers that pay the networks. No matter what, a superbowl commercial will still cost $1million for 30seconds, because they know people will watch them. People will always be watching events live, even if it isn't quite as often as it always has been, and as they do so, they'll be watching the commercials with them.

    -Julius X
  • by HardCase ( 14757 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @07:17PM (#283778)
    Without conceding the point to Dvorak, my question would be this:

    If skipping the commercials is equivalent to stealing the broadcast, from whom was it stolen? Was it stolen from the advertiser who paid for the commercial time? Was it stolen from the broadcaster who based the advertising rates on the number of viewers watching the show? Who gets the money?

    Let me pose another question. There are a few Tivo-type devices on the market that only record from DirecTV broadcasts. Consider this (admittedly narrowly focused) situation:

    I've paid DirecTV an extra amount so that I can watch my local channels on the satellite dish. In other words, I'm paying a premium for a service that others get for free. Should I then be allowed to skip the commercials because I'm already paying extra?

    Let me also suggest that Dvorak is making a mountain out of a molehill...or maybe even out of nothing. Tivo is a dying company, as far as I can tell, and the number of people who use the systems are very small and growing at a very sluggish rate. I suspect that given the slow rate of growth and the cost (while less than Dvorak's quoted $500, still a little spendy), other technologies will overtake Tivo before enough of them are purchased to really worry anybody.


  • by HardCase ( 14757 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @06:59PM (#283779)
    I suppose that this is going to turn out to be a flame on John Dvorak. I apologize in advance.

    John Dvorak typically writes his pieces for people who think that they're "digerati" when, in fact, they're really just the same sort of folks who, a few years ago, would buy a component stereo system from Radio Shack and call themselves "audiophiles".

    Nothing against those people, though, but I think that Dvorak does them a disservice by trying to make news instead of commenting on it.

    I don't see much of a difference between using a Tivo device to eliminate commercials and using a VCR to do the same thing. Both involve some sort of time shifting. In order to miss the commercials, you give up some degree of timliness in your viewing habits.

    Perhaps in the long run that's how we'll justify skipping commercials...if we want to see the show "as it is being broadcast", then the price we pay is commercials. If we choose to wait some period of time, then we get to skip them.

    I think, though, that Dvorak's claims of theft fall apart when you realize that a Tivo fits the idea of "personal use" even better than a video can always give a video tape of a program to somebody else, thus potentially opening a can of copyright worms, but who's going to record a few episodes of Survivor and then turn over their (much less than $500) Tivo? That's what I thought.


  • Actually when you consider that ABC is owned by Disney that is the big three networks.

    Furthermore, Dvorak writes a lot of stuff for ZD and here on ZD is an article [] going on about how both ReplyTV and Tivo have received large investments from the various media.

  • Most people watch TV vea cable or digital sat.
    Today TV stations can be "must carry" or "must pay". If it's worth watching it's "must pay"...

    When you pay your cable bill you are paying the TV stations to let the cable company carry the signal.

    So you people who don't pay for cable are stealing?

    TV ads are a convent relationship... you are under no obligation to watch.

    The TV industry is having problems and none are the fault of TiVo...
    More and more people are getting content and entertainment from the Internet... They don't watch TV or read newspapers anymore.
    Advertisers are cutting back. TV is having a hard time finding advertisers where as they'd have no problems in the past.
    Internet is having the same problems.. amplifyed by the fact that many are just fearful of banner ads.

    So TV is seeking to blame TiVO...
    But the ability to zap past TV ads is nothing new.
    TV cards give your home PC most of the abilitys of a TiVo... They have existed for 10 years...
    (I use mine for a web cam)

    VCR.. The TV industry has long complained about the ability to zap past TV ads using a VCR. Is this theft? Have we stolen from TV for nearly 30 years now?
    I think not...

    The TV industry adapts. TV ads have become amusing. We continue to watch.

    The trick is to make people WANT to watch TV ads.
    Accually.. the trick is to make people want to watch TV... TiVo or no....
    TiVo is a solution...
    Internet content is without scedual. You can watch it anytime. TiVo gives TV that advantage.... admittedly so dose a VCR but TiVo is a lot easyer to use.
  • Well-said.

    If a supermarket says, "Snapple: $7.99 a case (one per customer)", why do they have that little clause at the end? Because they LOSE MONEY on the deal. The only reason they can offer the coupon is because people come in and often buy other stuff. So if you just buy the Snapple, are you stealing?


  • But there is a gentleman's agreement

    Read my lips: I never agreed to it. In fact, i strongly disagree with it, in this day and age. The status quo sucks.

    And if you demand payment for the time you spend observing commercial filmlets, you will be charged to watch the rest of the programming.

    Fantastic! Where do i sign up? I would love to be able to pay 25 cents and watch The Simpsons without commercial interruption.


  • by Mike Schiraldi ( 18296 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @07:53PM (#283788) Homepage Journal
    Since when did it become the right of a broadcaster or provider of any other kind of content to require me to watch their commercials? I don't remember signing any license agreement.

    As people have said, what if i watch the commercials but don't run out and buy the products? Am i stealing? After all, i'm leeching off the guy down the block who zips out and buys the Jif peanut butter he saw being advertised. Without people like him, there could be no content, after all!

    So, um, if it's the right of content producers to force viewers to do stuff that gets them money, and anyone who doesn't do that is stealing, i have this to say:

    Send me $10!

    There. I rely on people like you to send me ten bucks -- without which, i would not be able to continue publishing content on Slashdot. If you don't like it, don't read my comments. But if you read my comments without sending me money, you're no more than a common criminal.

    And anyone who skips over my comments either manually or through technology is like a Tivo user skipping commercials. In other words, uh, a criminal. It seems.


  • It's the real deal. I read that very same column in 1984 where he said all those things about the Macintosh. I think he also said something about the Macintosh being a computer for dumb people in the same article, parodying Apple's ads about it being the computer "For the rest of us." I laughed my ass off then, and still laugh my ass off whenever I read drivel like that.

  • Perhaps a less emotionally laden phrase would be cherry picking? TV production is a very very long chain of events from the script writerrs to the actors to the distribution. Basically baby-boomer execs are trying to guess at shows that will appeal from kids to granniess (of course their kids and grannies). Naturally, this means that you get the odd dud or million (if you think US is bad look at C grades in 3rd world countries). Now being the pragmatic capitalists the studios are, they like to pass off the sunk costs of failures onto the consumer (shock, horror, you don't expect their shareholders to take the risk do you?) so that means that when they offer a good show, they suggest (OK arm-twist) the distributor to also take some crappy failure. Now given finite bandwidth and cable connections, you have to squeeze as much ad revenue out of the system as possible which means that Tivo which puts the slection back onto the consumer bypasses the crud. Hence by picking the killer-franchises, the cross-subsidies become rather glaringly obvious. Problem, quality costs which is why cheap reality-TV is being pushed. A small niche outfit can make a killing by being better targetted which means the biggies have to take it out to avoid losing a captive audience.

    I think mainstream media is reaching the point of diminishing returns which is usually indicated by a wave of mergers and acqusitions. What I expect to see now is virtual actors replacing overpaid celluoid celebrities, more reliance on the public to provide their own material (which the studies kindly grant you a spotlight of 15 minutes fame), and more onerous licensing terms as they try to improve their return on footage by flogging anything and everything (cough*Planet Hollywood*cough) starting with reputation (cough*WWF*cough) and morals (though some might claim that was lost long ago).

    Stealing is a bit harsh but the reality is that people don't (or more accurately) can't pay $1K to watch a hour of quality production. Street theatre, OK but there's not the same variety of choice unless you live in a big big city.

  • by JohnZed ( 20191 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @07:28PM (#283792)
    I love Dvorak's comment that networks haven't gotten mad yet simply because they haven't taken notice of TiVo yet.

    Gee, well, let's look at the list of equity investors in TiVo, inc []: CBS, AOL-Time Warner, Comcast, Liberty Media, Discovery communications, Showtime Networks, Disney, and NBC. So, gee, guess Dvorak believes either (a) NBC, CBS and friends don't count as "major networks", or (b) they invested in TiVo without having even a vague clue as to what the company would produce.

    Good research, Dvorak! And you get paid for this crap?
  • Trust a philosophy student to make broad sweeping, and ultimately empty statements.

    There is no such thing as 'universal morals', that would require a god. Perhaps celibacy or suicide would be bad if practiced by a whole race - for that race. But the universe would continue on.

    The *only* principles people use are self interest, hopefully enlightened self interest. People help the poor because it makes them happy, or because they want to avoid class warfare. If it makes them happy it's because of conditioning, not universal morality. That's the reason 'we' eat cow and not cat.

    The reason I can say that the *only* principle used is self interest is because there are no other principles. 'Morality' is just an open-ended social contract that people enter into out of self interest.

    On other topics, which type of programming, Fraiser or WWF gets the most expensive ads? WWF, by far. And the superbowl (not very intellectual) tops that.

    Maybe an ad on fraiser slightly influences someone to buy a lexus, maybe a twice a lifetime purchase, for a very small group of people. The value to the company is the % of people who wouldn't have bought, but now would, multiplied by the profit on that item. Very small numbers of people multiplied by a fairly high profit. The problem (for Lexus) is that they aren't an impulse purchase, people who buy $50k cars tend to do a little research, or buy what everyone else is buying. Either way, they aren't going to be very swayed by a commercial. The commercials are more of a break-even thing.

    Then consider the WWF, or superbowl. Millions, hundreds of millions of viewers. Many of the products pitched are VERY impulsive buys. Soft-drinks, razors, etc. They also pitch them with very emotional means, comedy or endorsements by the stars. It's unlikely someone will buy a $50k car because Tiger Woods has one, but they may buy a $2 razor because he uses it, especially when they're all essentially the same anyways. Do the math for that, $1 profit (tiny plastic items are nearly all mark-up) times fifty million, or so.

    That's why superbowl airtime goes for upwards of a million dollars per minute. Advertisement during pan-flute recitals, if these even made it to TV, would be dirt cheap.

  • I think he should just go back to writing classical music.

    (heh heh)

  • from

    Congratulations! is available.

    All the domain names below are available.
    Click on the names you want. Choose as many as you like.

    *click click click click click......
  • Personally,
    I'm going to cancel my subscription to Forbes, and when they ask why (magazines usually do), I'm going to say that it was because of this particular article. The non-factual nonsense with no semblence to reality shows they don't care about fact-checking stories. If their authors aren't fact checking the one story I can verify, then I can no longer trust the magazine as a whole to be anything other than so many pages of drivel.

    I suggest people who are truly incensed about this also, to cancel their subscriptions (if you have them) or else pass along their lack of quality control to those you know who do.
  • ...sent to

    I am looking at your story:

    Commercial-Free Conundrum
    John C. Dvorak,, 04.16.01, 2:30 PM ET

    ...posted here:

    ...and would like to ask you to please get a real columnist to write for your publication. I've known Dvorak's work on the tech trades for many years now, and I've always known he's a blowhard, but this latest column is ridiculous. For instance:

    In many ways the device is similar to MP3 technology: It's a way to steal programming. This has gone unnoticed because PVRs haven't caught on, yet.

    Dvorak might as well say that VCR's steal programming. VCR's have had commercial skipping functions for some time now, and so do some televisions, which allow you to flip channels for exactly 30 seconds, and at the end of that 30 seconds, it automatically changes the channel back to the original program, thus "skipping" the commercial. PVR's are not devices used to steal programming.

    These devices cost around $500, which is not a mass-market price.

    I paid $350 for my UltimateTV AND RCA dual tuner satellite dish system. He is flat wrong about the up front pricing.

    And let's not ignore the complexity of these systems. The remote control for PVRs has more buttons than a TV control room.

    Huh? Electronic remote controls have come a long way since "channel up, channel down, power on/off, volume". You'd think that since Dvorak is a technology writer, that he wouldn't have such a hard time figuring out how to use it. Add that to the fact that PVR's are soooo much easier to program than VCR's. All one has to do to record a show with a PVR is point it to the show on the program guide, and press "record".

    Apparently, 30 hours of available storage slowly shrinks to nil after a while, making the unit relatively useless.

    Okay, lets examine this statement. This is just flat out wrong. I've read the discussion groups he is referencing. Some people have lost recording time because of a software bug that Microsoft has acknowledged and is fixing, but I have heard of no one with a "useless" UltimateTV system. Either Dvorak is lying or too lazy to do real research.

    This guy (Dvorak) is obviously trying to get by on his name alone, because responsible journalism seems to be a foreign concept to the man.

  • Mr. Dvorak's talent has always been more in the line of entertainment than accuracy, I believe. This sounds more like flamebait than reportage. Give it a laugh and go on with your lives; nothing to see here, folks, move along...
  • by Azza ( 35304 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @10:25PM (#283812)
    It's on a hard disk. It's just a matter of time until a device or hack comes along that lets you either a) copy it to a CD / DVD, or b) stream it across the net. And wow, we have the MP3 wars all over again.

    The problem is that to allow 'fair use' in the digital age, you also have to allow 'piracy' (crappy term, but I'll use it here for the sake of clarity). I can't see how the two can be separated.

    The content producers and distributors are fighting this by attempting to thwart 'fair use' as it's currently accepted. What they *should* be doing, IMHO, is a) understanding the situation b) accepting the situation, and c) finding new ways of generating revenue. Just like the MPAA did when VCRs came along.
  • That is in essence how "free" TV channels pay for content, but we, the viewers, are not active participants in that contract. If we choose not to watch commercials that is not our problem. Perhaps in the long run it means that the show's producers will need to find a new business model,

    This is the same kind of mentality as came up with The Iopener and Cuecat. Maybe someone can come up with a cool name for the idea that customers/end users should somehow be morally obliged to support the business model of some supplier or other.
    It's almost the opposite of a "free market".
  • People really do like entertaining ads. Not these sickening Taco Bell "zesty" ads. *cringe*
    Hey, I like those ads much better than the stupid dog with the exaggerated Mexican accent []!!!

    As a matter of fact I think Slashdot needs a "Zesty" moderation. That way a good troll will be moderated as "Zesty times two" :->
    You think being a MIB is all voodoo mind control? You should see the paperwork!
  • This guy seems to never have heard of the Betamax court case which legitimized time-shifting.

    Unfortunately, neither did the Ninth Circuit in the Napster opinion. . . .
  • I must agree! I've been without a real-life live television[1] for the last 3 years, and I don't have any regrets. Sure, when someone says, "Have you seen that new foobar commercial," I have to admit that I have no idea what a foobar is nor did I see the commercial. But, it's much better that way. After all, I've found that the time I've saved has allowed me to say to my friends, "Do you know what it is like to camp in the mountains during winter?" Of course most of them don't. Personally, I'd rather know the what nature is like than knowing that Micky Mouse endorsed FooBars [2]!

    As an off-topic statement, losing the TV has done wonders for me. Not only do I get sleep at night now, but I also have times for the stuff that really is important to me, like spending time in - get this - the "real world". This is probably the only reason I wouldn't get a TiVo - I'd be tempted to sit on my butt in front of a TV much too often since I wouldn't have to watch the multitude of programs designed for the "Average Consumer". I'd never bore of the many Star Treks, Simpsons, and King of the Hills.

    Maybe I better get a TV antenna, though, since Dvorak seems to think that since radio waves containing commercial programs pass through my residence with the expectation that I'll buy some of their products.

    [1] I do have a DVD player and VCR, as well as a friend who gives me a recorded Star Trek the Next Generation episode each week in exchange for me buying him a VCR. Oh, I can't say that. I might get busted for pirating Star Trek! (And, yes, I use the "Commercial Skip" button on my remote to shorten Star Trek to 40 minutes.) I guess I have a Human TiVo. ;)

    [2] When is someone going to make a candy/energy bar for geeks called the FooBar? Think Geek (hint, hint) could market it on the net... You could make a TV commercial for it that had a geek sitting in front of a computer working in a hex editor, reaching for a now-empty pizza box. Rather than dieing on your TV, he would grab break the glass on the front of a red metal emergency food box and grab this FooBar. If anyone does anything like this, remember me and send me one or two!
  • TV is not free. You pay for it whenever you but a product advertised on TV. If coke did not spend a billions a year on commercials it would cost a nickel a can.
  • and the cost of advertising is not passed along to the consumer?
  • Yea you already stated your theory. You seem to be under the impression that the actual cost of advertised is NOT in the product being sold.
    If the advertising fails or succeeds the monies spent on it have to be recouped somehow and it's in the product. As for your "stronger brand" theory I don't buy it. Both Coke and Pepsi spend hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising and to what result? Here let me spell it out for you.

    "Hi I'd like a burger and a coke please"
    "sorry we only have pepsi"
    "yea fine whatever"

    Like it makes a freakin difference!. If the advertising caused me to walk out of the joint or demand to talk to the owner that would be one thing but to 99% of the people in the world it's just sugar water.
  • because it only has one sylable and it's a generic term. Notice that I actually did not drink coke. All that advertising and I still did not buy their product. Neither did I refuse to do business with the establishment. I also did not tell the manager that I wanted a coke. That is because I did not really care weather it was coke or pepsi. Advertising is supposed to make want the product and their advertising did not.
    Who says "I would like a carbonated beverage" or "I would like a cola" they say coke when they mean any carbonated beverage dark in color and sweet" but it's easier to say coke. Actually I ususally say "pop" because most places only carry one brand.
  • Having been a once-reader of Dvorak in PC Magazine back in my uncultured, uninformed, drone days, I can attest to the fact that Dvorak is simply the mouth of the beast. He has no real opinions of his own, but seems to pull all of his 'opinions' from the ass of the corporate beast. His 'reviews' are almost always strewn with view-altering misinformation, incorrect facts, blatant FUD, and corporate brainwashing. He's been the drone of MS for a long time, and done some relatively substantial linux bashing. I wouldn't be surprised if he were paid to do this covert advertising.

    This man is simply a worn-out business manager has-been wind bag who no longer has the skills necessary to perform a normal job. He has retreated to the world of journalism. We see this happen with programmers relatively frequently, where they retreat to colleges to teach.


  • For an event to be moral, it must be able to be universally applied. In otherwords, if everyone did it, things would be okay. From this arguement, suicide is immoral, because universal suicide means no humans.

    From this argument, celibacy is immoral, because universal celibacy means no humans.

    With these devices, advertising revenue WILL drop (less people watching, etc.).

    Non sequitur. Advertisers would simply find it necessary to create ads that people actually want to watch (because they provide useful information, or are entertaining in their own right).

    This will lessen the quantity of quality programming provided by the networks.

    Nah... too easy.

    Watch your favorite high-brow show (Frasier?) and look at the advertisements. Then watch the XFL or Wrestling, look at the advertisements.

    If your argument were correct, the latter would already be unable to attract advertisers. The fact that it does indicates that, even in a world where everybody from middle class on up routinely zaps out commercials, a niche for advertising-supported programming will remain.

  • quality of the advertisements is lower

    If you perceive this as a problem, you should be thrilled at the advent of a system that effectively requires advertisers to create ads that people will voluntarily watch.

  • IIRC there is one. May not be out yet, tho. Also, the Ultimate TV box from Our Favorite Proprietary Software House may have that capability.
  • >If no one watches them, advertisers are going to stop running them, or at least pay less money for them. That means cut back budgets on TV shows.

    Fine by me. I do watch TV, but realize that there is alot more to life than TV alone. If TV dies, then it dies, just like radio. Just like most ad-banner-web-sites. Just like carrier-pigeon.

    If the quality of TV goes down, then it goes down. I do watch TV, but markets/technology/entertainment continues to evolve.
  • What if they actually started embedding signals to demarcate the beginning and end of commercials, and the TiVo inserted targeted advertising from another source (downloaded in background) rather than playing "live" commercials?

    But then they would probably make it so you can't skip over them, a la DVD commericals.

    - - - - -
  • > Why do people continue to pay any attention to this troll. All he does is write articles to pull in traffic. /. should know better.

    Hey! Watch what you say about Jon Katz!

  • > Imagine for a minute where a studios make programming with blue-screened areas for individual networks to put advertising, IN PROGRAM. Each affiliate gets to put its own unique advertising for its region, the studios get paid, and viewers get familiarity.

    No need to imagine. Times Square on the eve of Y2K. It's already been done.

    And I believe it's regularly being done at baseball games and other sporting events.

  • That's the often predicted trend; powerful realtime 3d graphics processing will offer generic product placement. So when archie bunker drinks a "beer" each market will be able to replace that in real time with whoever is sponsoring the local rebroadcast.

    I guess the product placement people could then sign exclusivity agreements for even more money so that their "placed" products were never overlaid.

    Sports have been doing this for a while, using blue-screening technology to replace billboards on televised soccer games.
  • Do you really think, that "more money"="more quality"? Maybe the licenses to broadcast a movie will stop to rake in ridicoulous amounts of money for the MPAA, fine by me. Ow, now they're bound to make worse movies. Sorry, but what i appreciate most about a good film is the story. Then a good director who avoids messing the story up. Then actors (and i think there are enough good actors out there, no need to pay millions for someone who is good at acting) and locations. Then special effects start to become interesting. I mean, hey, they made good movies 20 years ago, it was possible, so why has at least half the budget of a movie to be allocated to special effects?

    When i see movies announced as being "the most expensive movie of all times" i ask myself why that should say anything about the quality of a movie. Especially if so much of the money is assigned to special effects which take a few minutes to view altogether. Then there's a huge advertising campaign which doesn't make that movie one bit better. Maybe they waste all that money to get the label "most expensive movie of all times".

    But then i didn't go watch "Titanic" either.
  • Dvorak's thing has long been to get attention by making outrageous statements that makes a lot of people upset. I don't think he believes the stuff himself. He can't be that stupid.

    This is just one more example and people are still falling for it.

  • Who gives a shit about TiVo seriously? Come on now, really if this was "Beergut: News for Couch Potatoes" maybe this would be on topic.

    It's on topic because:
    • TiVo runs Linux. All Linux related news be posted even if the only Linux related part of the story is that the author bought Linus a beer in Cupertino five years ago.
    • It's an intellectual property issue. All IP issues are on topic.
    • Because Hemos said so.
    • Because TiVo is hackable [].
    • Because a lot of nerds love Buffy [], Star Trek [], and The Simpsons [].

  • I'm still wondering what happened to the thousands of black PowerPC machines that Dvorak claimed that IBM had stored in a big warehouse a few years ago. Supposedly IBM was going to flood the market with cheap, pc-compatible RISC machines and the entire industry was in for a blood bath.
  • by IHateEverybody ( 75727 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @09:01PM (#283865) Homepage Journal

    I remember back when that was true, but as I recall, there was as many misses as hits. I first heard about DVD, MP3 and nickel-hydride batteries from his columns years before they became widely known, but if I recall correctly he also thought that push technology was going to become the next big thing. (anyone remember pointcast?)

    Dvorak hated [] push technology largely because he thought that it was just a big scam to shove [] a lot more advertising down our throats. It's kind of ironic that he now condemns TiVo and its PVR brethren because they allow us to have less advertising shoved down our throats.

    Some pundits just don't age well.

  • Dvorak is nuts -
    He hates new technologies -
    Someone smack him please.

    What a bunch of BS... why not just make it illegal for me to leave the couch when a commercial comes on - because since I'm not watching the commercials, I must be stealing the programming.

  • John Dvorak has been infected! We must put him down and burn the remains before he infects other computer industry critics.
  • They pay for something that is necessary because of competition (the competitor advertises too, creating an advertising "arms race") but that essentially is a waste of time and money; advertisement doesn't produce anything useful, it doesn't add value or information (at least by far not as much as an objective product review).

    Well, you're half right here. Advertising certainly is pure waste. It seldom conveys useful information to consumers and could be replaced with something cheaper (like some sort of universal []). But advertising isn't a sign of competitiveness. In fact, most advertising is designed to reduce competition by (a) creating a barrier to entry and (b) creating some spurrious sense of "brand loyalty" among consumers. If advertisers' markets were truly competitive, they wouldn't be able to pay for advertising.

    In a way, having a TiVo or other recording device indicates your preferences to advertisers. If large numbers of people start buying these, it will finally prove to them that we hate the 5 minutes of ads we see. Then they'll probably start buying more product placements in shows and movies (like the prominently featured Nokia phones in the Matrix or that horrible McDonalds shower in Josie & the Pussycats...Ugh!) I'd like to see a set-top box that filters out all corporate logos and product placements...not that would be useful!

  • Dvoraks article was so ignorant that I actually wrote and sent a letter to Forbes in response. Ok, so maybe it won't have any effect, but at least I can share it with you. Some of the ideas in the letter came from reading posts on Slashdot, so this letter is almost Open Source in a way:

    Dear Forbes Magazine,

    In regards to the recent commentary by John C. Dvorak "Commercial-Free Conundrum" (Dvorak Article []). Until I read this article, I thought that Forbes was a professional magazine that would stay away from crass tactics to draw readership. Yet, this appears to be exactly what is happening with Mr. Dvorak's article. To summarize the claims that Dvorak seems to be making in his article:

    1. Making a personal copy of a TV show and time shifting it is inherently wrong.

    "In many ways the device is similar to MP3 technology: It's a way to steal programming."

    2. As a TV viewer, I am required to watch advertisements to watch the programming being broadcast.

    "Is it any different to steal programming by skipping the commercials (which paid for the programs) than it is to download a song?"

    3. "Someday, though, all the barriers may be resolved and every TV just might have these capabilities built in. Perhaps that's when someone will notice the looming issue over intellectual property that has been largely ignored until now."

    Without drawing this out into a full blown debate, I would like a chance to respond to each of these points:

    1. Since the Betamax decision, TV viewers everywhere have been copying and time shifting TV broadcast for personal use. The fact that PVR is a new technology doesn't change the nature of this use. In fact, using a Tivo it is impossible to make additional copies and give them to other people, something which VHS permits quite easily.

    2. There is nothing requiring anyone to watch TV advertisements. I can mute an advertisement for a show, change the channel, or turn off the TV. If I am recording on VCR, I can hit pause until the commercial is over and resume recording when the show restarts.

    3. When "every" TV has this feature built in, it will be no different than the situation today with TV/VCR combo units. Every TV built won't have this feature because it is an added cost, but I do think combo units will appear. Mr. Dvorak, you seem to imply that I am stealing something by not watching the advertisements for a particular show. I find this insulting and counter by asking you: Do you watch the advertisements when you watch TV? Or do you perhaps get up for a snack or a trip to the bathroom?

    The PVR is clearly a slightly enhanced VCR with the added advantage from the point of view of the publishers that there is no media associated with it which can easily be traded (like a VHS cassette tape). The current PVR could just as easily been implemented using VHS and there are enhanced VCR devices with features similar to PVR devices.

    I hope the above points make clear to you my frustration with this article. If Dvorak were addressing the potential issue that will arise when video of all types is easily traded over the internet (not the case with any of the devices he mentioned) then perhaps he would have an editorial with some ground to stand on. As it stands, his current article only serves to incite and draw the readership of people who are offended by his statements. This is why I am disturbed that his article appeared in Forbes. I did not previously believe that Forbes is the type of magazine that would print pure sensationalism for the purpose of drawing readership.

    You claim that your company is "among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders." Please do something to reassure me that Forbes is the professional magazine I once believed it to be.

    *** Personal Info Deleted ***

  • Did it ever occur to anyone that Dvorak and Forbes approve of this type response to his rants?

    One thing I've noticed over the years of Dvorak rants is that they seem to be geared towards turning people's heads.

    He used to troll for Mac-heads by bashing Macs. Now most Mac users ignore him, so he has to think of a new group to target in order to garner readership/hits. AFAIR, years ago John Dvorak was one of the editors of, get this, _MacUser_.

    So he's moved onto opensource, EFF, and copyleft topics to troll. Clue in boyos, it's not about what he says, but how many people read it.
  • He put his email address. Use Pay Pal.
  • by OmegaDan ( 101255 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @09:17PM (#283900) Homepage
    More then that ... I pay for TV, I get a 50$ bill every month from Adelphia to prove it ... I pay 50$ for the signal every month, and I can do whatever I want with it :)

    As the consumer, I don't care or have to care wether CBS gets a cut of that 50$ ...

    I think the fact is that Networks have existed in the coincidence that people *were willing to watch commercials* ... that coincidence is coming to an end -- just like the banner add revenue crisis :) ... At best television is a loss-leader revenue model, give away something for free, hope people make it worth your while ... remind you of anything else thats failed latley ? ...

    I believe the add-banner and commercial problems are coming from a complete advertising overload ... EVERYWHERE you look theres advertising ... after awhile it just blends into the background ... and who pays attention to the background?

    What I'd like to see is a DirecTV + TIVO device that downloads the shows *I* want to see via sattelite onto its hard drive as well as providing a few realtime channels (news, etc...) ... I'd pay 1$ a month to download *new* simpsons episodes without commercials, which is more money then fox has ever gotten from me so far!

  • What a Mega Troll this John Dork is. A Google search [] pulled up 422 hits for his full name. This article [], which proclaims him "digerati" also just about defines troll to describe him.

    Here [] is a list of BS articles from the last year of so. ZDnet was nice enough to inclued a description of each. "Stop the Insanity! If an OS could rest in place for five years, computing would vastly improve." Is an amusing one.

    There's more but I'd rather go look at a radioactive contaminated area right now.

  • The man makes a few good points, even if he doesn't realize it. There is a real problem with TiVo/ReplayTV devices.

    Before y'all go off on your high horse about your right to everything, realize that there actually IS more to this world than your rights.

    I used to study Philosophy. One of Kant's concepts (the Categorical Imperative, I believe was an undefined universal truth that he couldn't define, but he knew some criteria, such as this one) was some universality.

    For an event to be moral, it must be able to be universally applied. In otherwords, if everyone did it, things would be okay. From this arguement, suicide is immoral, because universal suicide means no humans. I won't dispute your "right" to use these devices. It's a stupid arguement. Anyone citing Betamax is EXTREMELY foolish. Your RIGHTS aren't determined by Supreme Court rulings, they are endowed by the Creator, the SCOTUS just bitch-slaps the President and Congress when they overstep their bounds and figures out whose side the law favors when Congress and the White House actually behaved. If you have a "right" to do this, it is because you are exercizing your Rights to Liberty and the Persuit of Happiness without harming the rights of another, NOT because of Betamax.

    However, there is a more important question. What happens if everyone who currently owns a VCR (95% of homes with televisions I believe) gets one of these devices. While a VCR CAN record the programs and skip commercials, most people don't do this. I program computers for a living and find setting up my VCR to record a show automatically a REAL pain in the ass. I'll hit the record button, but dealing with the VCR is rarely worth it.

    However, what happens if everyone adopts these. Right now, most programming is paid for entirely from advertising revenue. With these devices, advertising revenue WILL drop (lett people watching, etc.). This will lessen the quantity of quality programming provided by the networks.

    Of course the advertising companies and television studios will need to adapt to stay in business. Y'all haven't impressed us as business experts by stating that companies need to figure out how to make money to be in business.

    The point is, the networks have a product that in the status quo provides entertainment at a very low price point. As someone who went a few months without cable when finances were tight, I appreciated the fact that I could get a few decent shows from the networks.

    Keep in mind that these devices will always be tilted towards the well-to-do. You guys with $3000 gaming computers, digital cable/satellite systems, every gaming console, a DVD player and surround sound system, etc., may have millions of options for entertainment.

    However, for a working class family of four surviving on $40,000/yr (slightly OVER the median income), a $30 night out to see a movie with a family isn't always an option, and buying hundreds of channels may not be.

    Either television as we know it will die from these devices or what's left will be much lower quality because of less revenue. Now television may have near zero artisitic value, be corrupting the movie studios, and allowing parents to neglect their children, but it is also an affordable form of entertainment. For the blue-collar worker that is now priced out of going to see his home-town football team, he can still see the game. The low price point of television means that even the poorest Americans can afford a set.

    What, you say, then television will remain for them? Don't be so sure. Pull the big money people out of watching ads with Tivo, and Lexus and Mercedes STOP running ads. This lowers the demand for advertising. As you move down the income brackets and allow them to avoid commercials with Tivo, there are fewer companies desiring ads. Keep in mind, there isn't a desire to reach the poorest individuals with ads, they are looking for middle-to-upper income individuals.

    Don't believe me? Watch your favorite high-brow show (Frasier?) and look at the advertisements.

    Then watch the XFL or Wrestling, look at the advertisements.

    Which show gets a more expensive product advertising? Which one likely gets more for it's ad space. As a result, which one gets the expensive to produce ads.

    There are social consequences to your actions. Screaming and yelling about your right to do anything you want doesn't change that. Yes, fundamentally, you should have a right to take any signal delivered to you and do what you want (cable descramblers, satellite "piracy", etc.). However, there is a social cost. Yes, the technically proficient and the dedicated can still get descramblers with no problem. But without the laws against them, EVERYONE would have gotten them and premier cable would have either died or required VERY expensive technical solutions.

    Yes, a few people skimming off the pot (taking television without commericials, premieum cable without paying, etc.) doesn't make a difference, but large scale would.

    Yes, I want a Tivo, but I also acknowledge that while I'm within my rights, there ARE social consequences.

    In reality, people should have a fundamental right to do whatever they want with their signal. However, you have to realize, that there is more at stake than this.


    Your fair use rights are meaningless without content.

    Take away the revenue stream, and you won't get ANY content that you can "fairly use."

    Copyright is a compromise.

    While people might create artistic works without compensation, television production is expensive, and can't be done without a revenue source.

    Oh well, I guess NBC will have to expect to provide programming without any revenue from it directly and try to sell T-shirts.

  • I don't believe that it is anywhere close to 85% of the population getting their TV from cable/DBS. Last I heard/read, about 50%-60% of the country was capable of getting cable. I have no idea what the adoption rate is among people that CAN get it. You forget how much of this country isn't in urban/suburban areas.

    The proportion of viewership going to the networks has been on the decline, but that is a consequence of more channels. Initially, the cable (and non-affiliated TV channels) were just knock-offs of networks and relatively useless, however the expansion of cable has resulted in a lot of specialized channels.

    This has resulted in a bunch of specialized cable channels with poorer "quality" programming, while better for the viewers because it is what they want. Take the Sci-Fi channel, the shows are great fun, but the acting and effects are horrendous, because of the smaller budgets.

    The death of local television would be a tradgedy. Admittedly, syndication has mostly killed independents already (they all show the same old shows), but at least local news remains. The death of the local community is a very dangerous things for the United States, socially and politically. The more homogenized the country gets, the more the political institutions will collapse.

    What do I mean? The American system is designed to be stable, not representative. There are HUGE seat bonuses. For example, if one party were to get 51% of EACH congressional race, they would have 100% control of Congress. The seat bonus (disproportionate power/voter supporting you based on smaller margins) becomes a bigger and bigger problem as the country loses regional differences.

    Additionally, there is something to be said for diversity. I rather like the fact that visiting my family in Ft. Lauderdale, taking a trip to New Orleans, hanging out in Boston, or driving down to New York City gives me a wide range of experience. Further destroying boundaries helps undo this.

    Besides, to improve we need a constant influx of new ideas. If we didn't have California doing screwy things all the time, there'd be nobody challenging the status quo.

    I agree that this is happening regardless, but there are REAL social impacts of what is going on that Slashdot whiners screaming about their rights won't help.

  • My point is, while they attract advertisers, the rates are lower and the quality of the advertisements is lower.

    My concern is that one of the few extremely affordable forms of entertainment may get hurt significantly. Even if it remains, the quality will be a fraction of what it is now.

  • Besides that, sending money to the networks or programmers would be akin to making TV Guide pay to show their listings in their magazines... Or do they?
  • Dvorak intentionally misses the point (god, he's almost as clueless as Hiawatha Bray!).

    First, you can't skip commercials, only fast-forward through them.

    Second, because of this, I've actually found myself *going back* and watching odd commercials if they look interesting.

    Third, because of *that* Dvorak misses the key datum, namely, that you're sitting there fast-forwarding through the commercials, paying strict attention so that you can hit the "Play" button again. You're ACTUALLY SEEING the commercials sped-up, recognizing the ones you've already seen, and (at least for me) checking out the ones that stand out.

    So, in effect, the ads have just as much sticking power as they would already have, and you're NOT out of the room as you might be with a known 3-minute gap where you can grab a snack or go to the bathroom. The advertisers might have their 30 seconds compressed into 5, but you can be sure that they mostly get their branding across because the audience is paying closer attention, even if it's only to watch for the end.

  • Not to mention that it's getting quite sickening how utterly insulting and manipulative commercials have become. Personally, I've been going about two months now without watching television. The frustration of idiotic, incessant, inane, advertisments is not worth the miniscule amount of decent entertainment that's left on television. Besides, I've found out there's a lot more to do that is much more personally constructive now that I have much more free time.


  • Then we'd be stuck with low budget tripe like Kids in the Hall, or SCTV instead of quality TV like Survivor, or Survivor 2.

    Funny you mention that. Shows like Survivor and the huge rash of 'reality' TV shows are a result of less advertising revenue from commercials thanks to sinking network ratings brought about by cable.

    Give it another 10 years and the new hit on NBC will be "Wayne's World: The Series". Of course, they won't be able to afford Mike Myers or Dana Carvey. It'll just be two guys locked in a basement with a camera.

    I own a TiVo and regularly fast-forward through commercials. Is it a right? Not really. It's just a convenient convergence of necessary features (the ability to record and fast-forward).

    If the content providers could prevent people from fast-forwarding through commercials, they'd be within their rights. As would I to choose to no longer watch that network. It would be a real shame if people watched less TV.

  • John Dvorak is a troll. Trolls exist not only in usenet, but also in the commercial press. He writes controversially to get attention. I don't think he's truly that stupid. He was pretty funny when he wrote the back-page column for MacUser, a long long time ago.

    He can be a slave to the networks, but the rest of us don't have to be.

  • Advertisers don't like us for that but that's their problem.

    Actually, advertisers don't care. They rather have people who do like to watch ads, see them. Take the online ad system for example. Advertisers don't care if you use junkbuster, you were not going to click through anyway. They might even be happy for this because you get less pissed and annoyed on commercials at a whole.
    It's a sort of self-regulating targeted-advertisement process.

    So by skipping ads on your tivo, it's a win-win situation for both you and the advertisers.

    Ivo (thanking Philips for their multi-million ad campaign to teach folks how to pronounce his name correctly :)

  • by Code Archeologist ( 128429 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @07:42PM (#283929)
    Its kind of funny really, when you take it all in perspective. My Grandfather told me when he was working for Magnavox that there was quite the to do about the fact their remote controls were going to have MUTE buttons. Yep there were threats of law suit and all manner of huffing and puffing... it never really hit the press back then though because most people didn't care. And really nothing really came of it and nobody got into any big fight about it, and nobody lost anything from it. Same story, different inovation.
  • by Eloquence ( 144160 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @06:55PM (#283942)
    You can read more about the Betamax decision here []. The Home Recording Rights Coalition [] still works to protect fair use against corporations, but the EFF [] seems to be better equipped for the "Digital Millennium" (yuck).


  • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @07:29PM (#283943)
    during commercials is theft!

    Shame on all of you ip thieves out there, depriving all those hard working sponsors of their right to blast you with intelligence insulting propaganda.

    Have you no shame?

  • By his logic getting up between shows to grab a drink is stealing television since you're watching the show but not the adds. I suppose he thinks that channel surfing or using the mute button to silence commercials is a bad thing as well. Perhaps he'd like to force us to look at the billboards we drive past. If we choose not to view advertising that's our choice. Advertisers don't like us for that but that's their problem. Long live TIVO.

  • by L Fitzgerald Sjoberg ( 171091 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @07:04PM (#283964) Homepage

    Personally, I think this pales in comparison to the practice of "mind-shifting," or memorizing plots, funny bits, and catch phrases from television shows in order to experience them -- or worse yet, share them with others -- without having to watch the commercials or pay the copyright holders.

    I'm petitioning congress to outlaw quoting television shows to your friends without also quoting at least one ad from that show. For instance, "EX-cellent, Smithers! The Joy of Cola!"

  • by metis ( 181789 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @07:38PM (#283977) Homepage
    Why would anyone want to skip the commercials? The commercials are the only part of TV programming that looks like somebody actually was trying to think creatively while producing. The commercial breaks are nuggets of gold in a sea of horseshit.

    Yesturday I was mentally somewhere else when they started showing a commercial for the Monty Pyton DVD set. Boy, I never, never, laughed so hard watching TV since I moved to the USA.

    Why not have the Tivo remove the programming and allow us to see the commercials uninterrupted?

  • by RedWizzard ( 192002 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @07:41PM (#283986)
    Nice troll.

    First of all, he is not saying that the primary purpose is to steal programming, he's saying that is going to be a future use similar to what is happening with MP3, and of course, he's right.

    Second of all, the Betamax case has nothing to do with anything. The question is about whether anonymous mass distribution of copyrighted material qualifies as fair use, and the answer is again "no"

    The Betamax case is relevant because it says that it does not matter if one of the uses of a device is copyright infringement so long as the primary use is legitimate. You already admitted that the primary use was not copyright infringement. Unless we see the widespread distribution of Tivo movie files across the Net in some organised way (a la Napster) you and Dvorak will have a hard time convincing anyone that these devices are anything other than a legitimate VCR variant.
  • by ZanshinWedge ( 193324 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @11:01PM (#283989)
    How all these people always have the wrong solutions. People don't want to watch commercials, and technology exists to allow them not to. Solution: outlaw the technology and force people to watch commercials. Ingenious! That takes a special level of intelligence to come up with that. Why don't they think about other business models. There are other business models for multimedia content ya know. For example, HBO seems to do well without commercials. This technology, the TiVo, is here to stay, you can't subjugate people into doing things they do not want to do. TiVo represents just one aspect of how multimedia (TV and movies especially) are changing. The old "broadcast" model is growing obsolete and is morphing into a more "content on demand / interactive" web like model. Content will be archived, content will be available when and how you want it. Content will be stored, formatted, and priced, to the viewer's needs, not the needs of the network or the advertisers. TiVo represents how this "revolution" will occur even without the active participation of the media producers. Eventually there will come a time when TV enthusiasts don't need to change their life to fit the TV schedule. They will be able to watch what they want, when they want, where they want, how they want. VCRs have already shown us a glimpse of the possibilities, and TiVo (and similar technology) shows us how simple extensions to those possibilities can change things profoundly. Now it is possible to go on vacation and you can simply come back and catch up on your favorite TV shows.

    In the future the transformation of multimedia "broadcasting" will be even more profound. Right now everything is driven by the need for a substantial market and for a substantial profit margin. In the future there will be much more smaller niches available. Imagine every movie and every episode from every TV show being available for varying costs at your convenience. That is a substantial shift from today. For one, I predict you won't see quite as much crap as you do today. There won't be "channels" in a traditional sense, so media providers won't be forced to either "cut content down" or "add in filler" to make up a 24 hour day. Multimedia content providers and creators will be able to produce as much or as little content as they feel is necessary. Ultimately it will be a good thing for the television industry as well as it's viewers. But in the meantime we have to deal with outdated notions and people resistant to change. Those who resist the flow of change and the wishes of the populace do so at their peril. The future is coming, it's time to accept it and plan for it, not to deny it.

  • by ZanshinWedge ( 193324 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @11:11PM (#283990)
    I find it interesting that anyone would describe not viewing the commercials in a TV show as "stealing" television. Nobody ever signed a contract with the television channel stipulating that they would recieve programs in exchange for watching commercials and buying an appropriate amount of the products advertised. That is in essence how "free" TV channels pay for content, but we, the viewers, are not active participants in that contract. If we choose not to watch commercials that is not our problem. Perhaps in the long run it means that the show's producers will need to find a new business model, but it does not mean that we are legally, or morally I would say, obligated to watch commercial advertisements and buy those products advertised. I pay my money to watch HBO, I pay my money to rent and buy DVD movies, I pay my money to buy CDs, I pay my money to buy books, I never signed a contract with NBC, Fox, CBS, ABC, or even the Discovery channel. If I choose to fast forward through commercials on taped programs on those channels, or to "surf" during commercials when watching the broadcast, or to use the bathroom or refil my drink or get a snack, that is my choice, it is up to them to figure out how to deal with it.
  • by Arthropoid ( 194003 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @07:22PM (#283991)
    Among his reasons why the Mac won't succeed:
    From the San Francisco Examiner, Feb. 19th, 1984

    The Macintosh has no slots for expansion and is therefore restricted in versatility

    Well, Microsoft is currently pushing a legacy free, closed box PC as the new consumer utopia...

    The machine uses an experimental pointing device called a 'mouse'

    If Dvorak didn't use a GUI based system (my bet is a PC, seeing how he is so viruntly anti-Mac) to write his article, and to do all his work for the past 7 or 8 years (conservative estimate), I will eat my own shorts.

    Who out there in the general martketplace even knows what a 'font' is?

    I would bet that about 90% of the public knows at this point; and most knew by the early 90s

    What businessman knows about point size or typefaces or the value of variable point size?

    See the comment above...

    The Macintosh uses icons to represent functions as though there was some intuitive knowledge on the part of the user as to what these icons mean.

    Did you know what sounds the letters in the alphabet represented before you memorized them? Sever anti-GUI trend here...

    Mr. Dvorak is one of the worst 'major' PC columnists in almost all regards (accuracy, predictions, impartiality). I don't have time to list more of his hilarious mistakes, but if you put anything Apple in front of him, he will immediatly say it will fail and is inferior to anything PC.
  • by vslashg ( 209560 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @08:30PM (#284003)
    during commercials is theft!

    But remember, folks, if you're going to ignore ethics and steal from the networks anyway, at least don't forget to wipe.

  • by tswinzig ( 210999 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @09:48PM (#284007) Journal
    Mr. Dvorak is one of the worst 'major' PC columnists in almost all regards (accuracy, predictions, impartiality).

    Plus his keyboard SUCKS.
  • by DaSyonic ( 238637 ) <`DaSyonic' `at' `'> on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @06:53PM (#284032) Homepage
    I saw an episode of Silicon Spin [] on TechTV [] where John C. Dvorak (who hosts the show) made similar claims. Some guy from TiVo was also there, and they were talking about how TV will make money now that TiVo is 'stealing' TV stations profits, and while the TiVo guy tried to explain how TiVo works to him, and how there are advertisements/channels getting put on TiVo preinstalled now, and other such things, John simply seemed to completely ignore him and say that TiVo is illegal and wont last long. It really got me mad personally, as he was someone whom I respected in the mainstream computing world. And especially since TiVo is quite accepting to geeks who want to basically do what they want with the equipment THEY paid for. However since his working with TechTV he has become quite clueless to facts, and more interested in getting ratings. This was all about 2 months ago too...
    I personally gave him feedback, but only received an automated response. It really shows where he stands...
  • by TGK ( 262438 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @08:22PM (#284040) Homepage Journal
    Again, the market comes into play on this.

    People want to watch TV shows but do not wish to watch ads.
    Consequently they skip the adds.
    If the ads are made more amusing and more interesting people will want to watch the ads as well.

    The clear example of this is the Super Bowl. My fiancee, who thinks football is a barbaric, mindless, tiresome practice that somehow vents our twisted societies need to experiance violence, religiously watches the Super Bowl every year explicitly for the comercials.

    The success of sites like AdCritic [] indicates that people will, if the content is good enough, actualy go out of their way to watch comercials. Hell, the 7up commercials had me laughing so hard I fell out of my chair once. Lo and behold I find myself drinking more 7up.

    If advertisers are pissed because people won't watch their shit the clear solution is to make better commercials.

    If you build it they will come

    This has been another useless post from....
  • by geomcbay ( 263540 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @09:35PM (#284041)
    Ok, so his article is filled with trollish bullshit...but on one level there IS a point here. Advertisements DO pay for network TV and subsidize even cable TV, at least for the channels that aren't full blown "premium" channels.

    Technology IS getting to the point where its easy for Joe Sixpack to "zap" the commercials (the fact that VCRs could do this years ago is meaningless considering the average person can't set the clock on a VCR or set it to record a program without some hand-holding VCR+Plus type dealie)... When these devices become commonplace and nobody is watching TV commercials, that IS a problem...The money is going to have to come from somewhere...If the dot-bomb economy proved anything its that advertisements that nobody pays attention to aren't going to pay the bills. So where does the money come from?

    Will all TV channels be "premium" in the future? Will the networks mix the advertisements & the programming together (ie. even more gratituous product placements..say one every 1.5 minutes?)

    Its easy to dismiss Dvorak as a loon, but there are some tough economic/cultural questions that will need to be answered some day soon...

  • by ryants ( 310088 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2001 @06:54PM (#284056)
    On top of that, both UltimateTV and TiVo charge customers $10 a month to use the device. None of that money goes to the networks or programmers whose material is being re-recorded and saved to the hard disk.
    I wonder if Panasonic (maker of my VCR) and the makers of my no-name VCR tapes send cheques to NBC and FOX?
    At least with MP3, attempts have been made to collect fees to share with the artists and producers. The issue hasn't even been raised in this video-bootlegging scenario.
    Uh... what bootlegging?
    Someday, though, all the barriers may be resolved and every TV just might have these capabilities built in. Perhaps that's when someone will notice the looming issue over intellectual property that has been largely ignored until now.
    Yeah... the looming issue that has been ignored is that intellectual property is bunk.

    Ryan T. Sammartino

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