Only a Dinosaur Would Deny the Value of a DVR Viewer

A Look at Posturing in the TV Upfront

By Published on .

The TV upfronts have always involved a lot of posturing on both sides in advance of negotiations, with each side making a show of digging in its heels on this issue or another before beginning to oh-so-generously grant concessions to the person on the other side of the table. In that way, it's no different than any negotiation, and completely acceptable practice.

That said, the continued insistence by some media agencies that they will only pay for "live" TV viewers—those that don't time-shift programming using a digital-video recorder—makes those agencies look like they're living in another age. Their reasons for not wanting to grant value to time-shifted viewers stem from two concerns: 1) that many DVR viewers are fast-forwarding past ads; and 2) that the ads are time-sensitive.

The first concern is real, but easy to address by accounting for the decline in commercial viewership in the evaluation of the DVR audience. The second concern is really just a thinly veiled negotiating ploy. Most DVR viewers watch shows within a couple of days, if not hours, of recording them. And few ads are so time-sensitive that they lose value if they're not watched at a particular time on a particular day. Let's be real—does the friggin' Hot Pocket not taste as good if I see the commercial at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday instead of 8:15 on Wednesday? Most ads aren't for about-to-expire car deals, and those that are can focus on the value of the live viewer. For the rest, it's a non-issue.

Of all the segments of the marketing and media businesses, agencies often seem the most endangered by current trends. They are too often seen as TV-obsessed and in danger of sinking in relevancy, dragged down while they cling stubbornly to a weighty and outdated legacy model.

Perception here—as is often true in our business—is more important than reality. And this negotiating ploy will advance the notion of agencies as out of touch. No one says media buyers need to value time-shifted viewers the same way they do live audiences. But viewers are going to watch shows when they damn well please, not when a network programmer tells them to. To deny their time-shifted eyeballs any value at all is to deny reality.
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