Thursday, August 8, 2013

DVR drama

Here's a problem for you: one nearly-full DVR leased from a certain satellite company, with an on-the-blink remote reception thingy. A DVR with only like 6% available space that cannot be operated with a remote control. Which means no fast-forwarding. Of commercials. No searching for titles to record. Playback is OK, operable from the receiver itself, but no pausing while playing, and NO FAST-FORWARDING OF COMMERCIALS.

Not a big problem for the boy's shows, as they are commercial-free anyway. Bigger problem for mine. I've started recording everything on the other DVR in the house, so I'm covered there. But said satellite company, finally recognizing that the problem is not with the remote but rather with the receiver/DVR is sending a new one. Current one--remember 94% full hard drive--needs to be returned to company upon receipt of new one. So what to do?

I have a LOT of hours of TV to watch and no ability to fast-forward while watching. Do I go on a watching binge, filling up commercial time with bits of work, reading, house cleaning? Or do I let go some of the backlog of shows? As a TV completist, it kills me not to see all of something that I decide to watch. I admit it will be some relief to start fresh with an empty DVR, but the mountain of shows before me (WITH commercials) makes the new DVR seem as much of a burden as an opportunity.

This is one of those moments when real life and research life oddly coincide. Early this week I spent time researching the history of Nielsen's measurement of time-shifting--the problematic inclusion of VCR recording, but not playback, in the live program ratings as well as the current C3 compromise of average commercial minute ratings based on live viewing plus 3 days' DVR playback. Because I was researching this in the context of the recent history of the soaps, I had to think about the ways in which time-shifting figures into soap viewing and also about the ways that keeping these shows viable is so dependent upon those time-shifters playing rather than fast-forwarding commercials (so that the viewing counts in the C3 ratings system--all of this only being relevant for Nielsen households, of course). Now, if I had the good fortune to be a Nielsen household (a lifelong dream, I typically tell my students) I would play, play, play those commercials on all of my shows. But, alas, Nielsen has not come knocking and thus I can imagine little more painful than sitting through the many commercial minutes of a daytime soap. I know that many viewers do, but I just don't get that. My time-shifting habits are too deeply engrained.

Damn it, I've been watching the first episode of Soapnet's Canadian import, the hockey soap MVP, as I write this (during commercials) and I like it. Means I have 3 more backlogged eps to catch up on, with commercials, before the DVR switch. Such is the burden of television.

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