Trendmeisters: DVRs Are Here to Stay

Where will television be in 10 years?

According to a panel of TV and interactive-product executives here, at least half the audience will be watching something they recently recorded, due to the ubiquitous availability of digital video recording.

By then, panelists agreed, DVR functionality will be in everything — from cable set-tops to PlayStation and Xbox video-game consoles to DVD player-recorders.

The debate over whether digital time-shifting is a good thing also continued during this discussion, held last Wednesday at the Television Critics Association's twice-annual meeting here. The conclusions continue to fall along product lines, with TiVo Inc. (and former NBC executive) Marty Yudkovitz declaring it a positive development.

"Consumers love this stuff," he said. TiVo is currently working with Toshiba Corp. on a DVR-DVD unit to be released this fall. He noted the increased competition in the realm from cable, too, but expressed confidence in the supremacy of his own technology.

"Ours goes down deeper into ads providing a real advantage to advertisers," he said, including Porsche Cars North America Inc., Lexus, Universal Studios and Fox.

"To gold-plated advertisers, it's a hit," he said, noting 60% to 70% of owners use the drill-down capabilities. "It's a service to owners," he added.

Turner Broadcasting System Inc. executive vice president Garth Ancier begged to differ. He noted that Nielsen Media Research has monitored two test panels of users. The service does not release minute-by-minute user statistics, but the test showed viewers watching a 30-minute show in 23 minutes.

"So, to say this is a service …" he said, trailing off.

Joe Franzetta, senior vice president of business development for GoldPocket Interactive Inc., argued that such a test would not show how the subjects used an ad. Programming is paused as a consumer views ads and supportive content, he contended.

The interactive executives assured programmers that they're likely always to need broadcasters and the hits they have traditionally produced.

"You guys have to capture the audience for us to reach," Yudkovitz said.

Besides, only 18% of viewers fully or partially pay attention to commercials now, according to Lucy Hughes, vice president and associate director of IM Futures Initiative Media North America.

Hughes also predicted that viewers will see more product placement, such as a past Friends
show where cast members spent most of the episode discussing a specific item from the Pottery Barn catalog.

"Why not? Having Friends
talk about a piece of furniture builds a brand," she said.

Yudkovitz, quoting a friend, provided the bottom line on time-shifting : Attention deficit disorder, he said, "is not a disease, it's a lifestyle. It's what we are doing."