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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

question of the day: How has the new shape of prime-time changed your TV viewing?

An Associated Press story yesterday about the terrible performance of Jay Leno’s primetime show revealed some intriguing tidbits about how television viewing is changing in the United States:

With one-third of American TV households now equipped with DVRs like TiVo, the 10 p.m. hour is emerging as a popular time for people to catch up on what they missed earlier in the evening, or earlier in the week.

For example, many people watch CBS’ “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” Thursdays at 9, tape ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” at the same time, then watch the medical soap an hour later, he said. They may tape “The Mentalist” (Thursday at 10) for later viewing. One casualty of growing DVR usage is that Friday nights, home of “Medium” and “Ugly Betty,” are becoming a TV wasteland because so many people are catching up on programs they missed during the week.

(via Breitbart)
Recently, too, reader Angelo emailed me wondering about whether immediate repeats of some shows — within a day or two of their original airing — was a reflection of cost-saving efforts on the part of the networks. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that, but in light of this news about DVRs, it does make me wonder whether those cost-saving measures are self-defeating: airing one show twice means fewer shows to produce (hence a savings in production costs) but also means, perhaps, fewer viewers overall than two different shows would attract.

So that’s what, apparently, primetime looks like these days: Multiple airings of new episodes of current shows, but also more timeshifting.

How has the new shape of prime-time changed your TV viewing? Is it similar to the days when a VCR helped you timeshift? Or does it feel qualitatively different somehow?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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  • fett101

    I don’t technically watch TV at all anymore. It’s all Hulu and torrents (Hey… there are anime and certain British car shows that you can’t get on Hulu). Not on a HTPC either so there’s no real TV involved.

  • Jerry Colvin

    TiVo for me, eight years and going strong. Never miss a show, watch only what I like, and very rarely ever see any commercials thanks to the 30-second skip button.

  • Hank Graham

    I’m another one that uses Hulu & torrents. But the only things I’ve been torrenting for the last year are the Dr. Who specials, and related shows. The last show I Hulu’d was Dollhouse.

    I’m waiting for folks like you to tell me what’s worth spending my time watching.

  • Cori Ann

    The big difference for me with a DVR versus VCR is that I can still watch two programs if they come on at the same time on the same day. I just pick which one to watch live and catch up on the other one usually within 24 hours. Friday nights are the opposite of a wasteland for me what with Syfy and USA duking it out in addition to Dollhouse on Fox and The Clone Wars on Cartoon Network. So those are the only times I take advantage of networks running the same episode twice in a week, it allows me to catch everything that aired that I wanted to see, even if there were too many things on at one time for my DVR to get it all. So for me, I actually watch a lot more shows now that I have a DVR–and services like Hulu work for me to watch old series that I have a hankering to revisit but am not sure I want to buy on DVD, or for programs that my DVR didn’t catch for some reason.

  • Les Carr

    Not sure how this works in the US (we don’t have TiVO, Hulu, Amazon downloads etc) but we do have all the major channels with Internet catchup services. So without setting any kind of recording device I can pretty much watch anything of the last few weeks from the four main terrestrial broadcasters and their digital spinoffs (BBC1-4, ITV1-4, Channel 4, More 4, E4, Channel 5, FiveUSA and Fiver) on my PC/Mac for free. This really divorces you from the broadcast schedule!

  • Keith

    I watch very little TV myself, but timeshifting makes it difficult to talk with other people about shows. Especially with people that don’t want to hear anything about a program they haven’t seen yet. You never know if they are running behind.

    DRVs make it so much easier to timeshift than with tape. DVRs can be programmed to automatically capture whole series, recordings don’t take up any physical space, playback is easier, and commericals are easier to skip over. Messing with tapes took significantly more effort.

    Discussions where livelier when everyone had just seen the same program. Having to delay a discussion because someone hasn’t seen the program dampens the enthusiasm. If one person has seen a dozen other shows by the time someone wants to talk about something they’ve just watched then the details aren’t going to be as fresh or seem as relevant.

  • Andrew

    What is this Earth concept of prime time you speak of?

    I tell my DVR what shows I like to watch, sometimes those shows appear on the box, and then I watch them. I know what day they’re on, because that is when they show up, but I honest to God couldn’t tell you when a single show I like is on.

  • Mike

    Tivo and torrents. The Tivo handles netflix and amazon on demand. PS3 shows netfix blu-ray and torrents from the server downstairs. If Tivo is not working on a device that includes a blu-ray player, and a DNLA media server client they’re fools.

  • markyd

    I don’t have a Tivo or a dvr or any other recording type device. TV just isn’t that important to me. The damn thing wouldn’t even get turned on if my wife wasn’t around to do it. The only shows I watch regularly are Survivor and Amazing Race. If I were to miss an episode I can go to the cbs website(or elsewhere, I presume) and watch it the next day.
    I wonder, still, why so much emphasis is put on 3-4 channels when there are hundreds to choose from. Let alone far more worthy time wasters. Funny stuff.

  • RyanT

    I’m a self-proclaimed TV addict, but I don’t have a DVR because if I did I would probably never ever leave the house.

    I *do* have a VCR and a second TV so it’s pretty much the same thing. I time-shift a lot. I watch the shows that I know a lot of people on Twitter talk about so I can be part of the conversation while I record other shows when there’s an overlap. If I miss something I’ll go to Hulu or some other online options.

  • Kathy A

    I got my cable dvr box almost two years ago, and I now find I’m watching more tv than I did before. However, since most of it is watched via dvr, I very rarely see any commercials.

    My dvr only lets me watch/record two shows at once, so I’m glad that most of the cable networks rerun their shows three hours later. This lets me watch/record So You Think You Can Dance and the liberal news block on MSNBC on Tuesdays and then record the new ep of Dirty Jobs later in the evening.

    Also, I am finally able to watch Jeopardy for the first time in years–Chicago has always shown it at 3:30 in the afternoon instead of the usual 6:00 pm (central time), so unless I was on vacation or on a sick day, I always missed it.

  • Althea

    I’ve said before I’m a throwback, since I don’t have cable, Tivo, or a DVR, and since the HD shift no VCR either. So my viewing is pretty basic, but yes, it has changed somewhat. Particularly at 9 (Central time) gods know I won’t watch Leno, so I have a new opening to see something else, esp. on PBS. I’m having to make trade-offs, like Fringe for CSI on Thursday, and Flash Forward for Bones. But as I said a long time ago, some shows are very good about reruns and some aren’t. Bones will rerun, and so will CSI. That’s good.

    There are some hours when there’s really nothing on that I want to watch on the major networks, and that’s very unusual – but it has opened up space for the Universal Sports channel, esp. for figure skating!

    But as for the repeating shows in the same week, I’ve advocated that for years. When 24 came along, Fox often reran each episode on Friday, and you could catch up, a big plus if you were trying to follow it. It makes sense. Why not catch the viewers who missed it? Save some money that would otherwise be spent producing some new crap show that will be dumped after 3 episodes. I like that NBC and CBS are doing this on Saturdays lately, but it’s not necessarily the current episode, which defeats the purpose (for me anyway.) If they’d be consistent, it should work out to their advantage, especially for shows that have story arcs, and for shows up against tough competition, like Journeyman against CSI Miami. Dirty Sexy Money against CSI New York. Dollhouse against Medium – for gods’ sake, they get a huge reprieve in being renewed, and then give it no chance in programming?

    Anyway, Ryan T., you said it for me, that if I had cable I’d never leave the house either. I watch too much TV as it is.

  • Leslie Carr

    It’s a pretty hybrid world out there (and so it should be?) I decided half-way into the British run of FastForward that I would like to watch it after all, after a friend of mine recommended it highly. He had just watched the first five episodes off his SkyPlus box in one sitting, but I have had to buy the first five episodes from on AppleTV to catch up sufficiently to grab the remaining free catchup episodes on the Channel 4 On Demand website.

    [[If there are any Brits reading this, do yourself a favour and catch up with E4’s Misfits from the last three weeks. It’s the most wonderful re-imagination of Heroes as a bunch of young offenders who gain super (rubbish) powers. Excellent dialog and darkly funny.]]

  • Apart from a few show which I occasionally watch “live,” I usually turn to Hulu and various types of DVD rentals when I want to watch a TV show.

    Then again, I know people who only watch DVDs or videotapes that they already own because they can’t really afford cable so–er–count yer blessings…

  • Barb

    I’ve come to the point where I rarely have any interest in American shows at all and if there is a show I like (you can count them on one hand), I DVR them since I cannot sit thru commercials and the animated junk that pops up during the show is a big turn off. Most of the cable stations are becoming almost identical to each other with the niche programming going by the wayside in favor of reality shows which I abhor.

    Most of the stuff I like is from the UK so I turn to torrents, YouTube and other venues as well as DVDs. Now if only the BBC to open up the iPlayer to the States, I’d be in hog heaven.

  • Paul

    When I’m at my folk’s home we’re definite time shifters. I really do overindulge on TV when I’m with them in the summer. My dad does it all with tape, since he has this set up where you can tape one channel and watch another or a DVD at the same time. It seems like the best shows are put up against each other, so we do a lot of it.

  • Lisa

    i always timeshift shows I haven’t seen a tv ad in ages

  • isobel

    I’ve got Sky+ so I always use that – I never watch anything live anymore (unless it’s the BBC) because fast-forwarding through the ads is such bliss! Things that I like to watch always seem to be on at the same time, so I end up recording two things at once and then trying to pick it up on the +1 channels as well for the third thing. It’s brilliant – this weekend I felt like reading so the telly didn’t get turned on at all, but I’ve got House and the Green Mile and a couple of other things snuggled up on the hard drive waiting for me.

  • chuck

    Prime time is a concept that is nearly dead. With DVR, DTV on demand, Netflix On Demand, streaming, etc the big three network’s idea of prime time show shows how out of touch they are. Other than “Lost” I have not patronized the big three for a very long time, just too many other good alternatives.

    Currently the fourth season of Dexter with John Lithgow as a very bad man is just wonderful. Just finished the new version of AMC’s “The Prisoner” using DTV’s on demand network connection, very satisfying. And yes, DW – “The Waters of Mars” is terrific.

  • Robertjm

    I’ve been using Tivo since Feb. 2006 on my bedroom TV so there are a lot of shows that I will Tivo and then watch in the evening. However, during the day, when I’m in the living room, I’m more apt to be watching TV as it’s broadcast, which isn’t really a proper statement since I virtually live in the Comcast Digital Premiere package.

    Of the primetime shows on traditional broadcast TV, I can count on one hand the shows that I watch either live, or slightly delayed by way of my Tivo unit (The Amazing Race, Survivor, NCIS and CSI). All of them, except for TAR, are available on Comcast OnDemand so I don’t worry about not Tivo’ing them if there’s another program I want to record at the same time.

    What’s funny is you call Friday the TV wasteland. While I agree broadcast TV may be the wasteland, it seems to me the cable channels thrive on Friday nights. My Tivo is camped on Syfy, and has been for a long time (Stargate, Stargate:Atlantis, Dr. Who, Sanctuary, Eureka, etc.).

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