Thursday, July 17, 2008

DVR drama

Here's a problem for you: one nearly-full DVR leased from a certain satellite company, with an on-the-blink remote reception thingy. A DVR with only like 6% available space that cannot be operated with a remote control. Which means no fast-forwarding. Of commercials. No searching for titles to record. Playback is OK, operable from the receiver itself, but no pausing while playing, and NO FAST-FORWARDING OF COMMERCIALS.

Not a big problem for the boy's shows, as they are commercial-free anyway. Bigger problem for mine. I've started recording everything on the other DVR in the house, so I'm covered there. But said satellite company, finally recognizing that the problem is not with the remote but rather with the receiver/DVR is sending a new one. Current one--remember 94% full hard drive--needs to be returned to company upon receipt of new one. So what to do?

I have a LOT of hours of TV to watch and no ability to fast-forward while watching. Do I go on a watching binge, filling up commercial time with bits of work, reading, house cleaning? Or do I let go some of the backlog of shows? As a TV completist, it kills me not to see all of something that I decide to watch. I admit it will be some relief to start fresh with an empty DVR, but the mountain of shows before me (WITH commercials) makes the new DVR seem as much of a burden as an opportunity.

This is one of those moments when real life and research life oddly coincide. Early this week I spent time researching the history of Nielsen's measurement of time-shifting--the problematic inclusion of VCR recording, but not playback, in the live program ratings as well as the current C3 compromise of average commercial minute ratings based on live viewing plus 3 days' DVR playback. Because I was researching this in the context of the recent history of the soaps, I had to think about the ways in which time-shifting figures into soap viewing and also about the ways that keeping these shows viable is so dependent upon those time-shifters playing rather than fast-forwarding commercials (so that the viewing counts in the C3 ratings system--all of this only being relevant for Nielsen households, of course). Now, if I had the good fortune to be a Nielsen household (a lifelong dream, I typically tell my students) I would play, play, play those commercials on all of my shows. But, alas, Nielsen has not come knocking and thus I can imagine little more painful than sitting through the many commercial minutes of a daytime soap. I know that many viewers do, but I just don't get that. My time-shifting habits are too deeply engrained.

Damn it, I've been watching the first episode of Soapnet's Canadian import, the hockey soap MVP, as I write this (during commercials) and I like it. Means I have 3 more backlogged eps to catch up on, with commercials, before the DVR switch. Such is the burden of television.

4 comments:

Chris B said...

You know, anytime I see a study claiming that anything less than 100% of DVR viewers fast-forward through the commercials in time-shifted programming, I'm somewhat amazed. I'll sit through commercials when I watch shows either live (mainly sports and news) or "live" (mainly reality show finales). But otherwise, I zoom past all the yuck. I just can't imagine not doing so when I have the power to do it (especially soaps, as I also fast-forward past the storylines that bore me, which I have to assume is another norm). As for catching up with your backlog, can you hook up a DVD recorder to the box? I dump some stuff to DVD when mine gets full.

Elana Levine said...

Yes, dumping to DVD is my most likely strategy. But I kind of like the challenge of seeing how much of it I can watch. The coming days will tell.

Fergison said...

OK, I read DVR Drama about a week ago, and now I have to post something because I can't stop thinking about it. I want you to know how much I empathize with your situation. As a TiVo subscriber since '98, I have trouble remembering life without 'trick play.' I mean, the Oscars take me 15 minutes to watch. When I sat down and thought about it, I can only name one show that I would continue to watch if I couldn't skip the ads. Everything else, I'd pass. I love Rescue Me, but I could care less about what Tommy Gavin is up to after someone starts shouting "Shamwow!"

Elana Levine said...

Yeah, after a few days of watching some of the DVR backlog with commercials (I DID get a lot of house cleaning done during commercial breaks, I admit), the new receiver/DVR arrived and I just . . . let it all go. Except that I was able to catch all the remaining episodes of MVP on the other DVR, I am finishing up the Heroes season on Hulu, and Fox is rerunning all the Sarah Connor Chronicles eps I had yet to watch this month. So I ended up not missing much after all, and not having to watch too many commercials. And starting off with an empty DVR was heavenly. Now it's between 50 and 60% full . . .