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Let's Do the Time Shift

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Trade News | October 15, 2009 |

Once heathens to the DVR faiths, the networks are beginning the slow dance of conversion, which is a beautiful proposition for those of us who watch shows that slip through the vaunted Neilsen cracks. All the way back in the sixties, we bemoaned "Star Trek" getting axed although it had a huge niche following invisible to the network. In the last decade we've watched "Firefly" die despite relatively massive DVR season passing, and seen it's resurrection in movie form along with the television resurrection of "Family Guy" and "Futurama" after strong DVD sales. Network executives, always the highly intelligent and learned sort of cephalopod, are now trying to actually notice non-Neilsen ratings instead of just waiting until they run out of DVDs to realize that a show might have actually been watched. "Dollhouse" is getting to air out its episodes in part due to the ratings boost from DVRs. "Fringe" gets almost 30% of its total viewership timeshifted, a number that if discounted would put it much further down in the pack.

Shari Anne Brill, Senior Vice President at CARAT (clearly a PR firm founded by DeBeers) says that "a time-shifted show signifies engagement with the content because they've taken that extra step. A lack of time-shifting suggests, 'If I miss it, oh well.' " Egads, I feel so dirty agreeing with a quote like that. Usually I quote them and then mock them and it's jolly fun.

Ah, here we go. Alan Wurtzel (somebody from NBC who likes talking to journalists) explained why NBC was seeing such a low level of DVR activity amongst their shows: "God didn't invent news to be time-shifted, nor Jay Leno. The whole point of Leno is to be topical." So is herpes medication, and it's not funny either.

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