“Turn to Food Network’s ‘Iron Chef,’” I might say, “and make it without commercials, please.”
At a Super Bowl party, I explained to some younger people how the sound had been turned off on the host’s TV set.
“There is this key to the right of the volume control. It’s called ‘mute,’” I said. A couple of the party-goers seemed baffled. It’s old-school commercial-skipping, I said, even if it’s just the audio.
Meanwhile, Walt Disney is close to striking a deal with Dish Network concerning AutoHop -- the feature of the satellite distributor’s Hopper set-top-box device that permits mass skipping of prime-time commercials on Disney’s ABC and the other three major networks.
The settlement could mean higher monthly fees for Disney so that Dish can continue to let viewers use the commercial-skipping feature. Other big media companies are still in litigation.
Separately, broadcast networks have been asking pay-TV providers to compensate them for their programming in a manner similar to what cable networks receive.
CBS will soon be getting over $1 per sub monthly from Time Warner Cable. But it got that deal through old-school leverage: making Time Warner cry for mercy in a month-long battle. Did Time Warner really want to tell its customers they wouldn’t see new fall season programs and NFL football games?
On its end, Time Warner got hit two ways: higher fees to CBS, and a loss of more than 300,000 video customers.
Dish presents a different hurdle, but not one that networks figure to overcome. With consumers wanting all options to see programming, TV technology never stops. But consumers also understand the reason for commercials, even as they try to avoid them.
Well into their second decade, DVR set-top boxes that permit time-shifting are still in only 50% of U.S. TV homes, with slow growth. Why? Is growing on-demand usage through traditional TV platforms, as well as online video viewing, taking over?
Since VOD and premium online video platforms don’t allow commercial skipping, will networks continue to worry about commercial skipping in the future?
Should viewers want commercial-free programming, they will be able to get it through standard DVR machines, services like iTunes, and other means.
I’m just waiting for the day when a network says in an on-air promo that viewers have the option to watch a program with or without commercials.