ABC Exec. Lobbies to Disable DVR Fast-Forward During Commericals

If you're not acquanted with a DVR, it's a machine that lets you record your favorite shows when you're not able to watch them live. It's like a VCR but with many more hours of storing capacity, all recorded digitally on its own hard drive.

While it's still in its infancy (owned by 10 percent of consumers), an executive for ABC television wants all DVR manufacturers to disable one of the machine's most prized functions: fast-forwarding the commercials.

Reports Media News Daily:

ABC HAS HELD DISCUSSIONS ON the use of technology that would disable the fast-forward button on DVRs, according to ABC President of Advertising Sales Mike Shaw, with the primary goal to allow TV commercials to run as intended.

"I would love it if the MSOs, during the deployment of the new DVRs they're putting out there, would disable the fast-forward [button]," Shaw said.

While MSOs risk losing some of their DVR customers if fast-forwarding were blocked, Shaw said the cable operators--who are beefing up their own local ad sales operations--"are in the same business we're in." "They've got to sell ads too," he said. "So if everybody's skipping everybody's ads, that's not a long-term business model for them either."

Shaw also threw cold water on the idea that neutering the fast-forward option would result in a consumer backlash. He suggested that consumers prefer DVRs for their ability to facilitate on-demand viewing and not ad-zapping--and consumers might warm to the idea that anytime viewing brings with it a tradeoff in the form of unavoidable commercial viewing.

"I'm not so sure that the whole issue really is one of commercial avoidance," Shaw said. "It really is a matter of convenience--so you don't miss your favorite show. And quite frankly, we're just training a new generation of viewers to skip commercials because they can. I'm not sure that the driving reason to get a DVR in the first place is just to skip commercials. I don't fundamentally believe that. People can understand in order to have convenience and on-demand (options), that you can't skip commercials."

Shaw said it's crucial for ABC and networks to hold these discussions with MSOs while DVR penetration is still in its early stages. DVRs are at around 10 percent of U.S. TV households. "It's in our interest and the MSOs' interest to figure out something that works for the two of us," he said.