Industry Influencing PVR Design13 May, 2002 By: Hive News
AOL Time Warner will not include a so-called "ad-skip" button in new set top boxes with Personal Video Recorder (PVR) capability, Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt announced today.
“Auto-skip” is a controversial feature that lets viewers skip commercials when recording programs with a PVR for later viewing. Perceived as a threat to media revenue streams, the major studios and television networks sued last October SonicBlue over that and a program forwarding feature built into its ReplayTV 4000 PVR.
Time Warner will test similar set-tops, manufactured by Scientific Atlanta, in Rochester, N.Y., later this year.
Britt made his comments during an interview with Cable World editor at large Staci D. Kramer. He also told Cable World the nation's No. 2 cable operator is seriously considering copyright protection and other possible content issues as it works on the design and implementation of set-top boxes.
Advertisers and their agencies have been increasingly concerned about new PVR technology that allows a viewer to skip advertising with a click of a button as opposed to running through ads on fast-forward, which has been a common practice since the advent of the VCR. Ad skipping technology, they contend, threatens the entire economic model upon which television is based.
In an interview with Cable World in its April 29 edition,
Turner Broadcasting chairman and CEO Jamie Kellner, whose company is owned by AOL Time Warner, told the magazine devices that let viewers strip advertising content from programming in real time amounted to breach of contract on the part of a viewer.
Not all programmer concerns have to do with ad-skipping technology. Walt Disney president and COO Robert Iger raised the possibility of an increased likelihood of commercial skipping in video-on-demand content.
“I'm not suggesting that everyone uses the remote control to scan through commercials, but we all know that we've raised a generation of kids that don't watch television without a remote control in their hands,” he said. “I think it's less likely that commercials will be viewed in that form than they're currently viewed on live television."
Other operators are listening to programmer concerns about the way new set-tops might affect their business models.
"I think we're more sensitive today than we were six months ago," said Cox Communications VP-operations Pat Esser. "We respect the needs of networks. We're going to have to work in some constraints to protect that business for them. If we don't, that model could collapse."
The most recent edition of the PVR Monitor by Memphis-based NextResearch, a survey of 358 households with at least one PVR showed that one in four PVR users always fast-forwards through commercials while just one in 10 said they never fast forward; just over half said they fast forward sometimes. Those who do watch are more likely to stick around when the commercial is entertaining.