Could DVR Save Print Journalism?

A few years ago I got a digital video recorder ("DVR") from my cable provider. Now, I don't know how I ever lived without it. I love pausing and rewinding the TV shows I watch, and of course, fast-forwarding through commercials. The only thing that could make my DVR experience better is if I didn't have to have that stupid box taking up space in my apartment. As though they heard my prayers, the Supreme Court decided this week not to hear a case involving that very question. The standing U.S. Court of Appeals ruling clears the way for those annoying DVR boxes to be a thing of the past.

So really, what was the harm in getting rid of the boxes? Hollywood was against it. So what better source is there than the Los Angeles Times to hear its side:

The move is a blow to Hollywood, which had fought the technology all the way to the Supreme Court. Fox, NBC Universal, Paramount, CBS, Disney and other programmers argued that because Cablevision transmits recorded programs to consumers over its cable lines, the remote storage DVRs actually constitute a new on-demand service for which they should pay licensing fees.

Hmmm. Let me get this straight: Since the cable company possibly only has one recording of a TV show and hundreds of customers view that same recording, that's different from if those customers had physically recorded it on their physical DVRs instead? That's crazy.

Why would Hollywood be okay with Hulu and not remote DVR storage? The article later reveals the whole story:

Of course, what this is really about is advertising. Television executives are very worried about the ease with which consumers can skip advertisements while watching recorded programs via DVRs.

So why not be honest about it? Why not try to prevent people from fast-forwarding certain sections of commercials? That would cramp my style a little, but if I had to watch a few 20-second commercials once in a while, I'd prefer that to those annoying boxes. Besides, we all need bathroom breaks once in a while anyway.

Perhaps this win for DVR is also a win for print and online advertising revenue. If people can just fast-forward through their TV commercials, it's hard to understand why they would be any more effective than magazine or newspaper ads, in paper or online. That could begin to bridge the gap between what advertisers are willing to pay for TV and print/online advertising. As a result, maybe the DVR will save print journalism. I dare to dream.

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Daniel Indiviglio was an associate editor at The Atlantic from 2009 through 2011. He is now the Washington, D.C.-based columnist for Reuters Breakingviews. He is also a 2011 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow through the Phillips Foundation. More

Indiviglio has also written for Forbes. Prior to becoming a journalist, he spent several years working as an investment banker and a consultant.

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