Saturday, April 21, 2007

DVDs, DVRs and TV Viewership - April 21, 2007



Strategic viewing

So, a TV network is cancelling new shows that look intriguing?
No sweat! Thanks to DVDs and DVRs, there are a number of ways around that problem.

By Eric Kohanik

The coming week’s roster of DVD releases has an interesting collection of TV series in the mix.

Sure, there are the usual, memorable classics. Fox Home Entertainment looked back to 1978 to unearth the first season of WKRP in Cincinnati as a three-disc package. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, meanwhile, reached back to 1975 to deliver the first season of One Day at a Time as a two-disc set.

Paramount Home Video went all the way to 1970 to put the first season of The Odd Couple onto five discs. On the other hand, Warner Home Video only went back to 1995 to come up with the first season of The Drew Carey Show as a four-disc collection.

What truly caught my eye, though, is Sony’s release of a three-disc rendition of a series from the current TV season: Kidnapped.

A drama that starred Jeremy Sisto, Timothy Hutton and Dana Delany, Kidnapped premiered Sept. 20 on NBC and Global, aiming to unfold its fictional conflict – the abduction of a teenaged son of a wealthy New York family – over the course of an entire season.

Trouble is, the show didn’t last long enough to finish its story on the air.

It’s such a shame. Every year, network executives keep promising to show patience for new shows when it comes to letting them find their audiences. Then, when the shows don’t take off right away, they get yanked.

It’s odd, too. By the time a series makes it to the air, it has been extensively “tested.” Scripts have been read by dozens of individuals. Cast members have been paraded in front of both studio and network brass for approval. And the finished show has been screened by studios, networks and focus groups that give lots and lots of feedback.

With all that input, it’s astounding that so many new shows still bite the dust so fast. It’s the loyal viewers who always get the short end of the stick, of course. And it’s frustrating for them. So, it’s no surprise that some are coming up with clever solutions.

A co-worker and another acquaintance recently revealed to me, quite coincidentally, that they have developed similar viewing strategies. Rather than watch a new series when it airs, they record all the episodes of the show on a VCR or DVR and then just leave them there, unwatched, until they are certain the show won’t be cancelled.

If the series sticks around, they sit down for marathon viewing sessions of the recorded shows until they’re all caught up. If the show does get whacked, they simply erase the episodes, content that they haven’t wasted hours of their lives for nothing.

TV executives always bemoan the decline in traditional TV viewership, but many are actually fuelling that fire. The more quickly they cancel new shows, the more they convince viewers not to bother watching new shows.

After all, those viewers can just record them and wait. Or just wait for the DVDs.

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