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'Hawaii Five-0' Premiere the Most DVR'd of All Time, But It Doesn't Really Matter

by Jason Hughes, posted Oct 18th 2010 5:30PM
'Hawaii Five-0'As DVR penetration continues to grow, at around 40 percent now, its presence gives one rookie show something to crow about. In a season where there are no breakout stars among the newcomers, it's something to note that the premiere of CBS's 'Hawaii Five-0' is now the most DVR'd show of all time, according to The Washington Post.

While experts are still trying to figure out how to make money from the DVR, the industry has agreed that these "Live+7" numbers will be the figure that count for the history books.

Thus, the premiere of 'Hawaii Five-0' is a bona fide hit at 17.587 million viewers, once its impressive DVR viewing figure of 3.374 million additional viewers (within the first week) are added to the 14.213 million who tuned in on Monday. That's why there are talks in the industry of disallowing the fast-forwarding of commercials on recorded shows. As more and more people are adopting the DVR technology, TV needs to come up with a way to profit off of the technology immediately.

The music industry faced a similar crisis 10 years ago when upstart Napster was making illegal file sharing of MP3s the cool thing to do. Faced with millions of dollars in lost revenue, the recording industry managed to transform those losses into a win with initiatives spear-headed by iTunes. Now, no one thinks twice about paying to download a song, or an entire album. In fact, this market is where most of the recording industry's revenue comes from now.

The television industry needs that same sort of innovation. TV is the fastest growing segment of the illegal download market, as many shows are available on torrent sites within a few hours or less of their broadcast time, and with commercials already trimmed out. While TV has jumped on the iTunes bandwagon, the prevalence of DVRs means that simply copying what the recording industry did isn't going to cut it when people can record it at home and watch it at their leisure for no additional cost. Most of us are paying for the privilege of even having television already, and not a small amount.

'Hawaii Five-0' nabbing that "Most DVR'd of All Time" title indicates another shift in viewing habits. While it may be the younger, more tech-savvy viewers who are streaming their television online, or downloading torrents, the DVR is now reaching a point where viewers of all ages are embracing it. CBS notoriously has an older audience, and it is more and more of these viewers who are embracing the DVR format. As the DVR achieves increasing mainstream acceptance, the television industry is fast running out of time to find a way to cash in on it.

The MentalistPremiere week saw two shows break the previous DVR record, from last Oct. 29 when an episode of 'The Mentalist' notched 3.16 million viewers. The premiere of that show netted an additional 3.2 million this season, while 'Grey's Anatomy' wasn't far behind at 3 million. Of the new shows, NBC's 'The Event' was the second most improved, with 2.6 million additional viewers, while CBS cropped up again with their older-skewing Friday procedural 'Blue Bloods' next at 2.2 million.

These numbers may look great, but they don't mean anything when a network is sitting at the negotiating table with a prospective advertiser. For one, despite what some reports say, many DVR viewers are skipping through those commercials. And then there's the problem of timeliness. CBS probably isn't going to impress Lion's Gate with those hefty "Live+7" figures for 'The Mentalist.' They're looking to buy commercial time to promote their Friday-premiering films, and the number of people who watched the show in the six days after the movie came out don't mean anything to them.

So many ads are timely that even if a network can convince an advertiser that people are watching DVR'd commercials, it won't matter. By the time they see the ad for J.C. Penney's annual "White Sale," it'll probably be over. Disallowing the ability to fast-forward commercials could create some lingering frustrations for fans who do wait a long time to try and catch up on a show, as they'll be bombarded with ads for things that are either outdated or just don't matter anymore. Sure, the industry wants people to watch their shows sooner, but is punishing those who don't or can't the solution?

Many network and service providers are looking at Video on Demand (VOD) as a solution. With this, they can make programs available at any time, like a DVR can, but with the commercials embedded and with no fast-forward built in. Fans seem to be embracing it, but what about those 40 percent who already have DVRs? Is the solution to take a legitimate and legal technology away from them because you can't figure out how to profit off of it?

Innovation as come from the advertisers as well, who have experiment with targeted ads utilizing characters from the show you're already watching to encourage you to slow down and watch the commercial, as in American Express's Sue Sylvester spot during 'Glee,' or the Unilever commercials running through 'Mad Men.' This tactic makes for more entertaining commercials, and actually recalls the early days of television when sponsorships for television shows were more directly promoted in ads featuring the characters and actors from the show.

With product placement growing in the shows themselves and character placement now in the commercials, the ideas are clearly flowing, though no clear solutions are forthcoming. Maybe direct sponsorship of an episode is the way to go. If a DVR disallowed commercials but we knew we only had to sit through one at the beginning and maybe another at the end, and it featured cast members from the show in character as well, we probably wouldn't mind. Advertisers would be forced to get creative and make the premium cost worth it for their clients, and we'd get an entertaining and more targeted ad.

However they move forward, the television industry is at a technologically-induced crossroads. The models used to make money have been around for more than 50 years, while the technology is so much newer. It seems archaic to try and force the technology to adhere to the old revenue methods, but it's not easy to see a proper solution.

Would you be OK with not being allowed to fast-forward commercials if it would help your favorite shows? Would you give up your DVR in favor of VOD? Would you watch ads featuring your favorite TV characters shilling products and services?

[Follow Jason @ultraversion21 on Twitter.]

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I DVR all of my shows so that I can skip the commercials. If I can't skip the commercials, I wait for the show to come out on DVD and rent it through Netflix or if I really like the show, buy it. If I can't skip the commercials, I'll probably end up getting rid of the cable, since I don't usually watch it unless it's a show I recorded from the previous night. Seems like with the more blatant product placements in shows, that might make up for lost revenue.

October 19 2010 at 3:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Beans

No and no also. I DVR most all shows for the reason I do not want to watch ads

October 19 2010 at 12:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Karen

Product placement within the show, instead of separate commercial breaks, is just gonna have to be the way to go in the future - but it's very tricky. They've trained us from childhood to never hear a REAL name brand mentioned in a script, and never see the label from an actual product. So now, when they reverse that, it's just too jarring - it breaks that fourth wall and takes you out of the story you're watching. I remember when the characters on the defunct soap Guiding Light just suddenly started eating (and endlessly discussing with each other) Pringles Potato Chips on air one day: after 30 years of carefully hiding any label from camera view or mentioning the name of a real life product in a script; to have them suddenly doing such a thing had all the subtlety of bomb going off. Modern Family's Apple I-Pad show was pretty ham-handed too. But if the writers (and the actors) get a little better at finessing a product into a storyline, maybe commercial breaks will become less neccessary. In any case, taking away or modifying DVRs just ain't gonna cut it. Closing the barn door AFTER the horse gets out has never worked.

October 19 2010 at 8:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Diane

nope, nope, and nope.
I will be pissed and will find a way to give up TV if I have to start paying for each episode I want to watch. If I DVR something, it should be my choice how and when I watch it with out them disabling something. I don't mind recording a show and skipping though some of the commercials. I stop and watch when they apply to me.
I don't mind a little product placement, but I'll tell you for sure I'm sick to death of Glee and every other commercial with the cast members. I'll watch the show from time to time, but am really turned off by the over exposure this show has everywhere all the time. Enough already.

October 18 2010 at 11:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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