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DVRs and Commercials – A Look At the Present

The vast majority of people these days watch television in one way or another. Whether at home, at work or elsewhere, television surrounds us. It is how we get our news, how we get our entertainment and how we learn about things in other areas of the world. Quite simply, television is important to us and it is our video link to the rest of the world.

With the high importance of television to our daily lives, you would think that we all pay for it, right? Well, in the case of satellite or cable we do. For regular networks, we do not. But even with the networks that we do pay for, we are not paying nearly enough to cover the costs that go in to making movies and shows. So where does the other money come from that helps cover those costs? Advertising. Pretty much you will see advertising every 5 minutes or so when watching television and a little less often when watching movies. But it is still so prevalent that we do not even think about it anymore. We just accept it. Or at least we used to.

The World Before DVRs

I was pretty young during most of this time, so while I do know a bit, my knowledge starts somewhat late. I was not around during the times where you either had to watch your show or end up missing it. I do remember, however, having to set up a VCR that would record shows for you (and you should set up specific times to make it start and stop) so you could watch them later or watch them over and over. This was an awesome tool, but it had its limits as well:

  • You had to choose between high quality and low quality recording. This was the difference between 2 hours and 8 hours of recording
  • When a tape was full, you had to swap it out. If you had more things to record and were not around to swap out tapes, you were out of luck
  • If someone re-winded a tape, you would lose some of your show since the new one would simply record over the previous one

All in all, VCRs were an awesome addition to the television experience but they also had their quirks. Even so, they were much, much better than life before they were invented; back when you had to just miss anything you were not there in time to see.

Along Comes DVRs

Next up came a new device that went above and beyond a VCR. Instead of requiring tapes, for example, we could record on to a hard drive, much like a computer does. This gave great benefit in that you could easily store many movies and shows on one device, giving much more flexibility in when and what you watched; while we are still rushed through watching things before it fills up, it is not nearly as bad.

Another cool part about the DVRs is that they recorded in to a medium that could be searched. With VCRs and tapes, you had to fast forward and re-wind until you got to where your show was. This could be a real hassle at times, and in any case took a bit of time. Now you could just choose the show you wanted to watch and it would pull that from the hard drive. Awesome and easy to use!

Furthermore, the DVR could plan recording based on certain shows, and across multiple channels. We had options with the VCR to record at the same time each week, but there was no way to have it pick up shows that span many channels. And now with DVRs you can even have it keep only the shows it has not recorded yet, so you are not filling the device with a lot of duplicates.

Advertisements...

What I really want to bring up, though, is the major change in advertisements between these three periods of time (pre VCR, VCR and DVR). Each of these has brought about massive changes that have affected the way advertisements are handled.

Pre VCR. During this period, you either had to watch your commercials or go deal with other things while they were on. They are only a few minutes long, though, which limits the amount of stuff you can get accomplished. As such, for the most part people would go ahead and sit through them while waiting on their show to return. After all, you do not want to miss any of it!

VCR. Once VCRs came around, things started to change. If you missed your show but got it recorded, you could just fast forward through any commercials. You could even get some VCRs later on that would automatically do it. They were not too accurate (meaning that you sometimes had to fast forward still) but they still offered up at least some automation, which was a welcome change to how we view television.

DVR. Now we are in the age of DVR's, or digital video recorders. These are different from what we used in the past for a couple of reasons: first of all, we can skip around from one show to another and even pause and return to a different show later. Second, because we can skip commercials much more easily. In fact, a lot of people are like myself, where I dislike commercials so much that I will watch a recorded show while another one is recorded; I rarely watch live television just because I do not want to have to sit through the commercials. After all, I am there to watch my show; not something else.

Effects On Revenue

I have heard some theories that the DVR would destroy television because of it allowing people to easily skip the commercials. If you really think about it, this would make sense. After all, that is how the shows get their revenue. Without people viewing commercials, advertisers do not jump on board anymore and the networks go bankrupt. But this has actually caused something a bit different: more entertaining commercials.

Rather than just toss a commercial up and hope people will watch it, marketing agencies are now working towards coming up with better and better ideas for them. The goal now, rather than just get someone to sit through it, is to get people to recommend them to others. By coming up with funny or otherwise entertaining commercials, the marketing agencies are getting us to sit through them and then share them with our friends. This is considered as viral marketing, in that a video can easily be seen by hundreds of millions of people due to a single share.

In essence, there are now two sets of commercials: those that are worth watching (and have value to us) and those that are not. Instead of killing the revenue with DVRs, what has happened is we have gotten to a point where we are actually enjoying watching. This is a far cry from anything I ever felt would happen, and it is a very welcome change. What was once a fear people had has now become a welcome addition to the digital world.

Conclusion

We have gone through a lot of technological advances in our history. Now we are in the computer age (or digital age) where things are moving much faster than they did in the past. A lot of people end up scared about what the future will hold, even though some of the new advances are pretty awesome. And it is great to see when a fear turns in to a praise later on, such as with the ability to fast forward commercials. We have moved out of the boring and bland commercials and on to the better, more entertaining ones. Were we not to have the option to skip them, I really do not think that any thought would have been put in to making them better. After all, if we have to sit through them regardless, why take the time and effort to make them enjoyable?

Electronics


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