There’s often a tendency to think that “everyone” uses a particular technology, or uses it in a particular way, when in fact many people don’t. And so it is with DVRs. In most reports, DVRs have been discussed as if they’re completely antithetical to the TV networks’ advertiser-based model; it was assumed that anyone who uses a DVR must be skipping through the commercials. But as Bill Carter reports in the New York Times, networks are starting to wake up to the fact that many DVR users don’t fast-forward the commercials. Some do, but some don’t. Some “forget” to skip the commercials, some might enjoy the commercials, and some may just want to use the commercial break for traditional purposes, like going to the bathroom or getting something to eat or drink. And there’s also the point that an act break kind of needs to have a minute or so of space before the next act; a viewer might not want to dive into the next act right away. It’s why watching shows on DVD can be an unnatural experience.
Meaning that shows with big DVR gains are, in many cases, gaining viewers for the commercials as well. And that a “DVR-proof” show like Jay Leno’s is not actually a good thing, because if people did feel compelled to record his show, the advertisers might get some extra viewers.
Not that everybody watches the commercials, of course. But the place of the DVR is similar to that of the VCR in the ’80s. In fact, it’s basically the same thing. When your VCR breaks down, you replace it with a computerized version. (I’m surprised so few comedians do hacky jokes about how difficult it is to program your DVR. The problems of recording a whole show on a DVR are almost exactly the same as with the VCR, even down to the problem that you often get the first or last minute cut off.) The networks also worried that the VCR would destroy them; these companies even went to court over it. But ultimately they learned to co-exist with the format.