Time Warner, Dish, Take 2 Opposite Approaches To Television Viewer Ad-Skipping

I’m angry.

I’m an angry customer of Time Warner Cable because, without warning or explanation, my longtime television provider has removed the automatic “jump-back” function that has always existed as part of my DVR subscription.

The “jump-back” function is a feature that automatically occurred when I was fast-forwarding through content and hit the play button to resume viewing at regular speed. At that moment my viewing historically resumed about 6 – 8 seconds before whatever was appearing on the screen as I hit the play button.  This conveniently allowed for the natural delay that took place from the time I saw where I wanted to be and the time my brain took to notify my thumb to hit the play button and resume viewing. I always could resume viewing again at the point I wanted to -- a smart and helpful part of my DVR experience. And now it is gone.

Yes, I do fast-forward through ads for cable and broadcast network programs on Time Warner Cable, so the “jump-back” function always allowed me to start viewing the shows at the beginning of a program segment.  As a long-time advertising professional, I say that without apology, simply because I recognize that for too long media providers have asked viewers to sit through a totally unreasonable amount of advertising for the content we are paying through cable and satellite subscription fees.

I called my customer service number and spent a frustrating half-hour rebooting my set-top box and trying to communicate my concern. While the rep tried a couple of set-top boxes, in the end I was told that it’s the way things work now, (an improvement is what I was told) and I can always use the manual “skip back” button to go back 8 or so seconds just like the automatic “jump-back” function.

It’s not the same. Going through a multistep process, I inevitably go back into the commercial I was skipping. It does me no good to fast-forward again or I’ll be in the same spot – having missed the beginning of the program.  When I asked my rep to pass along that I was unhappy with the change, he suggested the website contact area was the best way to do that.

So now I’ll stop sounding like an old retired guy in Florida complaining about utility services and the government, to consider why this change was made.

I can only surmise that in the world of commercial ratings, the particular minute of advertising I’m trying to avoid will now record many more impressions when all the channels are measured across every minute of the entire year for DVR playback. With C3 ratings, this can really add up and turn into significant dollars for the media providers. What other kind of business so reduces customer utility while charging more each year?

Another explanation might be the recently announced patent settlement with TiVo, in which it was revealed that Cisco and Google will make $490 million in payments to TiVo -- but, according to The Verge, it was “not clear whether Time Warner Cable will also be paying TiVo."

I’ve asked for comments from Time Warner Cable’s public relations department, but so far have heard nothing.

I can’t help but be amazed at the extreme difference in features that another television service provider currently offers, putting consumer wishes to reduce the amount of ads they must endure right out front and center. On the DISH TV, I’m greeted with this very explicit offer not only allowing me to skip commercials on DVR, but also on some VOD services:

"Only with the Hopper® you can watch live and recorded TV anywhere, [it] lets you instantly skip commercials, keeps you from missing your favorite primetime shows and gives you instant access to the latest news, weather and more with the Hopper's apps. The future of television is here with the Hopper® HD DVR from DISH.”

Watch Commercial-Free TV with DISH* If you ever dreamed of a day when you'd be able to enjoy the most popular network shows without commercial interruption, that day is here with DISH's latest consumer feature on the Hopper® from DISH.” *Features must be enabled by customer. Automatic skip feature available for playback of certain shows on ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC with PrimeTime Anytime Feature."

In the end, these are signs of the turmoil and transition we find the traditional cable/satellite-delivered television business in today, as multiplatforms, over-the-top services, cord-cutting, and online targeting rattle the cages for every stakeholder involved, including viewers.  I won’t call it the T/V (television/video) apocalypse yet, but it certainly demonstrates some serious climate change.

3 comments about "Time Warner, Dish, Take 2 Opposite Approaches To Television Viewer Ad-Skipping ".
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  1. Chris Nesbitt from London Broadcasting, June 28, 2013 at 5:08 p.m.

    Well if you want to have television without commercials then eventually there will be no television stations or networks because advertisers will stop buying them. Then you will have to pay for all of your programming, even local news, or not get any at all. Be careful what you wish for.

  2. John Wettersten from Media Activation, June 28, 2013 at 5:23 p.m.

    I always wondered how Dish could rationalize the Hopper's functionality when they only make it work on broadcast network programming and not on cable network programming. Or is it because they insert (and don't want people to skip) their local ads on network cable?

  3. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, June 28, 2013 at 5:27 p.m.

    So get a TiVo with cablecards. You'll never look back.

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