Just A 'Baby Chimp': Sinclair CEO Pooh-Poohs DVR Impact

Sinclair Broadcast Group's CEO David Smith says DVR usage has had little impact on his stations -- all of which seems to be some narrow TV watching.

Take look at the networks' current May sweep period, which has seen ratings drop by an alarming 20% or more. You can't blame all of this on the cable networks, or even the Internet.  Those ratings are being time-shifted -- a lot.

But not with Sinclair, apparently.

"I honestly think it is nothing more than that industry attempting to position itself as the 800-pound gorilla," Smith says. "But it turns out that it's nothing more than a baby chimp. That's all it is."

For Smith's sake, his stations must be getting some improved business from advertisers -- who are already accounting for time-shifting -- or from viewers who don't time-shift.



But other stations have seen different results.

Though Nielsen has given local TV advertising sellers some new metrics to use in big markets -- like live program plus seven days of DVR playback ratings -- local advertisers and media agency executives have roundly rejected that data.  Virtually all media buyers are negotiating on a live-only program basis, which are smaller viewer numbers.

This isn't to say Sinclair stations aren't feeling the pinch -- just somewhat less than others, I reckon. The reason could be local news. Few if any viewers time-shift TV news programming. So the more hours of local news programs you have, the better you can do in a DVR world.

And, if you are still running any major league sports teams, you benefit as well, since viewers rarely time shift sporting events.

Add to the fact daytime syndicated programming is also rarely time-shifted - except for the likes of "Oprah."

That's the good news.  But that's not to say the bad isn't coming.

That baby chimp might just be a nuisance now -- and more of a problem later.  

DVR penetration is at 20% or more of U.S. TV households and growing. That means even if some station groups aren't feeling much of a pinch, they will -- in such dayparts as scripted programming in prime time.

My suggestion:Make a run on the banana market.

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