For about a decade and a half, in-home DVR units have made it possible to time-shift programming -- as well as to race through commercials on playback. The future might tell a different story. The use of video-on-demand platforms and general digital video usage keeps climbing. The former doesn’t allow fast-forwarding through commercials. The latter includes ever-present pre-roll ads that also have to run.
Dish’s Hopper with its AutoHop feature can record full swaths of broadcast network prime-time lineups without commercials, but one wonders how long that will last.
Charlie Ergen, chief executive officer of Dish Network, recently talked about new carriage negotiations with the Walt Disney stable of networks that may result in ways to let viewers see their advertisers’ messaging. This will no doubt come in the form of addressable interactive advertising that Dish and other TV providers have long promised to marketers.
TV and media futurists keep betting on cloud technology allowing consumers to store their personal media selections. Imagine if cable, satellite and telco distributors would shift to that technology. Will consumers then be allowed to fast-forward through commercials?
Maybe consumers will get some of what they want. They’ll have to watch some ads, but be allowed to fast-forward through others. Perhaps they won’t have to sit through 17 minutes of non-program time for a one-hour drama; maybe they won’t be stuck watching all eight minutes of non-program time in a half-hour comedy.
Maybe there will just be fewer commercials -- a couple of pre-roll 30-second ads, as well as a mid-roll ad. Advertisers? They might pay more for this access. But hopefully they’ll get less waste and a better consumer target.
Also consider that the growth of DVRs has slowed. Once, some prognosticators predicted 80% would have DVRs by 2007. But, some 14 years ago after their introduction, a little under half the country currently has DVR units in their homes. In 2013, there was 9% growth over 2012.
What is the other half of the U.S. doing? You can look to Netflix, VOD, digital ad-supported platforms, “premium content” like Hulu, and plain old live TV viewing.
As digital cloud programming services will continue to grow, many program content owners hope to figure out better ways to get advertisers’ messages integrated. But fast-forwarding -- or even newer yet-t0-be-discovered commercial avoidance techniques -- will always be around.