A tale of two DVR strategies: the pathfinder and the luddite

15 08 2007

Rewind to earlier this decade, when DVRs were but a nascent segment of the entertainment landscape and the debate playing out again and again in broadcast network boardrooms and future media conferences was DVR: friend of foe?

Jump back to the present, 17% of U.S. homes and around 7% of U.K. homes use DVRs. Despite some curious pieces of research from both sides of the pond, including NBC’s finding that viewers fast-forwarding through breaks had higher recall of the ads they’d seen, we all know the reality: the vast majority of DVR households:

  1. Skip through ad breaks.
  2. Are oblivious to the traditional 30-second spots running in these breaks (though it’s arguable that first in / last out spots, as well as sponsorship bumpers are creating impact).

As characterised by the years earlier friend of foe debate, there are still two classic responses from industry: embrace the change and come up with new ways of engaging audiences; or prohibition.

What better example of strategies rolling out on both sides of the debate than this interview with Brian Sullivan, BSkyB’s customer group managing director, and the individual who has been the driving force behind Sky+ being installed in over two million  U.K households.

Meanwhile at the luddite end of the scale, comes news that Time Warner Cable is to disable ad-skipping via its Look Back TV catch-up service. This from the very same company which ran a small-scale trial in the early 1990s of prohibiting ad-skipping on DVRs — unsurprisingly the feature, one of the key USPs of a DVR, got a resounding thumbs down from consumers. Yet history repeats itself…