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The Continuing Complications of Entertainment

I read recently about this new technology called AutoHop that Dish TV is offering to its DVR subscribers. It allows them to press a button and skip all commercials on a recorded show (with restrictions). This has led to court shenanigans between the cable provider and the broadcast networks. Vivek Khemka, VP of product management at Dish TV, says “People have been fast-forwarding through commercials since the beginning of DVRs.” Ha! How old is she, 22? We’ve been fast-forwarding through commercials since the invention of the VCR, which is quite a few decades longer.

I’m actually pretty bothered by the whole thing. I mostly watch TV via DVR, so yeah, I fast-forward commercials. But at least I’m still seeing them. People watching live get up to go to the bathroom or get a snack, so they often don’t see them at all. AutoHop means you have no idea what commercials there were and don’t even have a chance to happen upon one. Fast-forwarding means if something looks interesting, I’ll stop and watch it. Doesn’t mean I’ll buy the product, but that’s a whole ‘nother discussion.

This case is just a symptom of bigger issues that have been plaguing the television industry for a long time. Broadcast TV (ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, and the CW) is still free, but it’s not easy to capture. So most of us pay for cable or satellite. We pay them for access to networks, and they pay the networks. Many people are moving to Internet TV of some sort, or watching online days or weeks or years after the original airing.

Revenue streams are complicated. Non-“reality” TV is expensive to produce. Studios produce a show, then contract with networks to air it. Networks present it to advertisers to get income to offset the costs of the production contract. If advertisers know we’re not watching at all, they’ll stop paying the networks, who then can’t pay for original content. *poof* goes quality television.

There have been skirmishes of other sorts, too. The owner of two of our local network affiliates fought with DirecTV a few months ago, so they shut down our access for a few days. Both blamed the other for greed. That happened with the owner of two other local affiliates back in January and Verizon. Dish and AMC are now doing that dance. I wonder how the advertisers feel about that.

All of this is mirrored in other industries, too. For a while, there was fear the movie industry would collapse because of competition from Blu Ray and surround sound, affordable DVD, and on demand. Even though things have evened out a little, only certain kinds of movies turn a big profit. Music companies and their performers make most of their income through live shows rather than sales of albums and songs. At least, until the performers have to cancel gigs because burnout has made them sick. And we’ve all seen how this manifests in the book industry, with the tidal wave of available books and the intense debate over pricing, with the behemoth, would-be world conqueror Amazon being treated like a bullied little mom-and-pop, and with agents struggling to stay relevant.


All of this chaos has its pros and cons for consumers, but I’ll stop talking now and see what you have to say about that. This should be my last fill-in post for Shawna, so let’s go out with a prize. All commenters will be entered into a drawing for a surprise pack of goodies! So weigh in with your thoughts on the state of the entertainment industry today! (Comments through midnight Friday, June 29, EDT, will be included in the drawing.)


25 Responses

  1. I think there are too many reality shows on the air and not enough episodes of good shows.

  2. Hey, everybody, I’ll be away from my computer all day and all night so I’ll respond to all comments tomorrow, I promise! πŸ™‚

  3. I think it’s the Wild West. Or Medieval Europe. We’re all going back to being self-employed bards, singing for our suppers. “Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall, ninety-nine bottles of beer…”

  4. Yeah, it’s exciting but not so exciting, you know? I’m still with a good publisher, but oftentimes I wonder how long it will last. There’s money to be made, but I’m not sure if publishers go away, I’m willing to fight that fight. Not that I don’t have gumption, but I want to enjoy my life a little. Maybe I’ll find a craft and start selling it on Etsy. Or maybe not. Maybe I’ll bake cakes and take them to nursing home. Or maybe I’ll just take up tennis and have great calves. I’m not lazy but I’m not going to cram my book down people’s throats with crazy promo. And I’m not going to make my own covers, hire copyeditors, typesetters, etc. In other words, I’m not really interested in self-publishing my work. Maybe I’m just lazy.

    As for entertainment, I’m indifferent. There will always be music, dramas and stories – they’ve been around since the beginning, and they will persevere no matter the method used to deliver them.

    Nice post. Made me think. Made me nervous.

    • Sorry, I hate to make people nervous. 😦

      But I feel the same way. I don’t think it’s necessarily laziness. We all have skills, but not all of us have ALL the skills. Some do it anyway. πŸ™‚ Some find a way around it. Some just choose a different direction.

  5. Honestly, I think consumers of entertainment are spoiled brats. We want it handed to us for little or nothing so we can spend all our money on the gadgets we use to watch or listen to it. And in the case of television, the ‘charge’ is the inconvenience of sitting through commercials. What we pay per month for cable or satellite TV provides only for the delivery system, it’s barely a drop in the bucket of what it takes to produce the content. Yet somehow we see no irony in simultaneously bitching about the poor quality of TV and how we have to tolerate commercials. Poor, poor us.

    • I pretty much echo KariLyn. Because with commercials I doubt we will have cable because I’m not going to be able to afford to pick up the slack on my bill that commercials are filling!

      and I do miss good family shows. I can’t think of a single weekly show on TV that we see that can be watched with the kid. Anything good is going to be a cop show with too much blood or far too complicated for the kid to follow.

      I remember watching Cheers with my parents. Full House and Family Matters with my sister. I had hopes for Good Luck, Charlie but I hate how the parents are often portrayed. I mean, really? No.

      • I had the same complaint when my kids were younger, about there being no appropriate prime-time TV. Though I never would have considered Cheers in that category! LOL I was thinking more like The Cosby Show. That’s the go-to example, and I can’t think of any others… Maybe it’s a myth that there were a lot of appropriate ones. (I never watched Family Matters and didn’t like Full House much so for some reason that makes me not count them.)

        Now that they’re older, we watch Glee and Modern Family together, and I think ABC Family is bringing back some of those kinds of shows for families to watch together.

        • LOL you know I laughed when I typed in Cheers? But we watched it a lot with my parents. if there was bad language (such as what you’ll find in today’s prime-time) I dont remember it. I just really remember them being great friends who hung out in a bar. all the subplots and stuff I didn’t always get, but I loved Carla and the post man

    • I wanted to hug you when I first read this. It’s what I wanted to post but tried to control myself. πŸ™‚

      First world problems, for sure.

      Part of the problem is poor quality commercials. If they were all as good as, say, Mac vs. PC or the little Vader kid, it would be great. But then they do the moronic T-Mobile girl and bombard us with the same ones over and over (especially online) and that feeds the annoyance.

  6. You probably don’t want to hear my opinion (but I never let a little thing like that stop me!) because I don’t watch TV. To me, “quality television” is an oxymoron. But that’s a rant for another day.

    I agree, it’s the Wild West in many industries right now, and it’s hard to see the end of it. I also agree that consumers are mostly whiners, who want something for nothing. I’m guilty of that as well.

    But I also remember, as a kid, coming out of the Civic Theatre (the marquis sign out front with the lights that traveled down the arrow pointing to the front doors, the smell of stale popcorn and Slow-Pokes in the lobby. You know, you had one in your town, I’m sure.) In the lobby, was a poster, scaring everyone with a picture of a TV (a massive box, back then) with a coin slot on the top. They said that everyone had to support movies, or they’d go out of business, and we’d be forced to drop nickles into the top of our TV for entertainment.

    Funny how those nickles are sounding pretty good about now!
    But nothing will disappear, as long as there’s a market for it. It may change to a near-unrecognizable form, but it won’t go away.

    • Always want to hear opinions, Laura, justified or not! LOL

      Some things will disappear. Movies didn’t, but is the Civic Theater still there? We have ONE small, single-screen theater in our entire Metropolitan Statistical Area. The local multiplex just sold to a bigger company. It’s the same thing as B&N and now Amazon killing independent bookstores, and Walmart killing the local hardware store, etc.

      But your underlying message, that entertainment won’t go away, is true. I think we’re moving to a pay-for-what-you-want system. It will be slow and arduous because it means a lot of change for behemoths and hardheads, but it will get there.

  7. I don’t watch regular TV because it’s a bill I don’t have to have and I HATE reality shows.. If I like a show I’m gonna buy it on DVD anyway. For instance Fringe, Justified and Smallville. I never saw an episode of any of them but I own three seasons of Fringe, two of Justified and all ten of Smallville and I still have a list. I don’t just skip commercials I skip having to wait a week to see what happens next.

    As far as movies go they’re just better on the big screen, period. And again I buy the DVD so I pay them twice.

    And books, obviously this one concerns us most. There are so many ways to get your hands on them now, that writers and readers are dipping into. I have the kindle on my phone, full of books and a nook the same way but for me nothing beats the weight of a book in my hand and I keep them all, even if I didn’t like it. So wherever you walk in my house you trip over books. I hate that all the mom and pop stores are being gobbled up but I believe one way or another the industry is going to pick back up. There are just too many of us that like to read.

    • Hi, Erin! Thanks for commenting! πŸ™‚

      I think people like you are going to be instrumental in that shift that I predicted above. People will pay for only what they want, whether it’s waiting for a whole season on DVD or buying individual shows on iTunes or Hulu or whatever.

      I’m a hybrid book reader, too, though I’ve gotten ruthless about giving away my print copies. I currently have a book in print, one on my Kindle, and one on my iPod all going at the same time. I’ll buy them wherever I can get my hands on them, and I don’t think e-books will ever be able to replicate the experience of browsing in a bricks-and-mortar bookstore. Just like home movie theaters have never fully replicated the big-screen experience.

  8. Here’s a story I remember from my youth…I was at a movie theater. There was a person there with a petition. It was to ban or outlaw “pay” television. Since all I knew was television via an antenna, I was appalled that anyone would consider PAYING for television! I wonder how many of you remember the days before HBO, cable, etc.

    I do adore my DVR. I can tune out the commercials but they drive my husband batty. I think the thing that annoys me the most is HOW MUCH LOUDER THE COMMERCIAL is than the regular show. Have you noticed that?

    But yes, I do zap through commercials when I have something recorded.

    Test – How many of you say you’re going to “tape” a show? That phrase is slowly but surely leaving my jargon, but I have to think before I say it!

    • We say “tape” Cyndi! I have no idea what the proper term is now. LOL

    • I grew up with three stations you could see clearly and two with static on the “second” dial, though one of those had no shows of interest to a child. πŸ™‚ I was very excited when we first got cable and we got to try HBO.

      The commercials are louder so the people who left the room to go to the bathroom or get food can still hear them.

      I don’t say tape anymore, I say record. But I’m not positive I ever said tape back then, anyway, I think I still used record.

  9. We’ve just entered this new technology age and now have so many channels I’m lost. I don’t like chaos. As for TV, there are very few shows we watch these days. Sure is great to get to zip over the commercials now and the Watch on Demand seems promising.

    • We have something like 200 channels, and that’s great for someone like my husband, who likes to flip. He’s always watching HGTV home improvement shows or the pawn shops and storage and auction shows. I have targeted shows I watch and they’re on less than a dozen channels.

      We have DirecTV so no on-demand except for movies, but it seems like a great feature for busy people!

  10. There are some commercials I actually like – ones that make me laugh, but I fast forward through all the stupid political crap. Unfortunately, we have only very basic cable and all my favorite shows are on channels we don’t get so I have to watch through other avenues and I’m not a huge fan of “reality” shows. Bring back shows like Firefly and I’ll be happy. πŸ™‚

    • The upcoming show Revolution reminds me of Firefly for some reason, Vicky. πŸ™‚ You’d probably like Falling Skies, too. But like you said, you’d need an “other avenue” for that one. Luckily, there are many! πŸ™‚

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