With DVRs and the Internet, Is the ‘TV Schedule’ Outdated Today?

As we said yesterday, this week saw the broadcast networks reveal their 2012 Fall schedules, telling advertisers, reporters and other interested parties what to expect from the next year of TV. But how important was the “schedule” part, exactly …? Does it even matter when shows are on anymore?

While I was as excited to see the line-up of new shows (and returning favorites) as anyone, I found the amount of interest over which shows would conflict time slots with which other shows, or which shows were moving nights, somewhat surprising. It’s not that I don’t care about the television math and metric that keeps shows healthy and alive, but in today’s fragmented media world, I’m surprised that the idea of a “schedule” is still quite so strong.

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t watch live TV anymore, for the most part. It’s not that I have anything against live TV, although I know plenty of people who do (mostly the commercials, it has to be said), but just that … I want to watch more shows than I have time to each week, so my DVR is constantly full of options, meaning that I can pick and choose what I’m in the mood for, versus whatever happens to be on whenever I find myself with enough time to sit down and turn the television on. Not that that’s the only way I watch shows; thanks to mobile devices and various apps, I can watch entire series without going anywhere near a television (I’ve seen all of the second season of Happy Endings via the ABC app, for example; reading that it’ll now be on opposite New Girl brought a reaction of “Oh, that’s right, it’s actually a television show that’s on on prime time, it’s not just this fun thing I watch on the iPad at weekends” more than anything else). It’s possible that I’m a complete aberration, but I’m not convinced that that’s the case; ABC’s upfront seemed as interested in online clicks and real-time ratings.

There’s long been the idea of “cord-cutting,” of the internet somehow replacing television as the primary method of watching shows. It’s an idea that is constantly contradicted by reality (For example, paid television subscriptions actually rose last quarter, when they were expected to drop for the first time as a result of alternate viewing opportunities), and one that I think ignores the ease and social appeals of television as a format/medium: When you factor in DVRs allowing viewers to control their own schedules, why would viewers shy away in favor of the (inferior, in my opinion) option of streamed media that’s limited by how good your wifi is at that time or how big your screen is…?

The future of format is almost the one we have now, I think: A multitude of ways in which to view content, with the one difference that each option will be given equal importance – or, at least, more equal than now – by broadcasters and content producers so that iPads are as important as laptops are as important as televisions and so on. If we reach that particular entertainment singularity, then “schedule announcements” will be a thing of the past, because everything will be available to viewers as they want it.

Of course, I may be a tech-optimist. I’m curious, now: How do you watch television these days – and how would you like to, in the future? Use the comments to share your thoughts.

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Comments

  • Bill Reed

    It does matter when things are on, because my DVR can only record two things simultaneously.

  • Wildstorm

    I am probably a 50-50 DVR watcher.  I will mostly watch them while they are actually on while recording another that is on at the same time.  Sometimes I will record a bunch of a show (Fringe for example) and have a marathon run of watching new episodes.  I guess it depends.  Also does the whole “moving a show to kill it” argument matter anymore?  Does moving a show to the doomed Friday timeslot matter anymore?  If CBS suddenly decided to move NCIS to Fridays matter anymore?  Also why, with probably so many DVR hooked up to the internet, doesn’t Nielson grab viewing info from the DVRs?  I hate to see a good show die because houses that have a box do not watch these shows.  

  • Rcruz61

    People in the industry will protest but I see an inevitable future where TV and Cable will become ‘a la carte’ where you buy time and shows that you want to see.  For the most part, one could argue we’re almost there.  Although, granted, perhaps not as I envision it and maybe not in my lifetime.

  • Lyle

    I really do not watch live tv either. I will either DVR stuff and watch it with my wife, go to my one friend’s house and watch what is on his DVR, and I have one friend who is not tech savvy and I will tape the few shows we watch together. This is partly because I work 3pm-11pm, so I cannot watch prime time stuff live, and I bet I am not the only person in this situation. I’ve also discovered that I am a social tv watcher, that I can only watch stuff with others whereas if I watch it alone I just lose interest really quickly.

  • Glenn Simpson

    As Bill Reed mentions, there’s an issue of DVRs being limited to two channels at a time.  But also, things like books, music, movies have “release dates” which are in some way pertinent, so I suppose that’s what the TV schedule may one day relate to.

  • zeke

    I watch the shows when they come on if I can and if I cant whether that be because of work or time slots. I watch online.

  • jrau18

    Yes.

    The six paragraphs were unnecessary.

  • jrau18

    They’re working on DVR’s with unlimited streams. Just not as easy as you’d think.

  • BurningDoom

    It is absolutely an outdated concept. I haven’t really cared about the schedule on T.V. for a few years now, thanks to DVR and Netflix.

  • sandwich eater

    Well, it’s increasingly becoming irrelevant, but it still matters.  If you’re like me and you don’t have a DVR, when 2 shows conflict I watch the one that won’t be available online the next day.

    I’ve already cut the cord, but the problem with ditching cable is that a lot of the internet providers are also cable companies, and they don’t want to see people ditching cable for online video.  That’s why Comcast put in a data cap on their service.  Unless the FCC fights this (which they won’t) I suspect everyone will eventually be on tiered internet service plans that limit the amount of online video we can watch each month.

    When I got rid of cable the main thing that I noticed is that I don’t really miss it much.  Doctor Who is the only show on cable that I can’t get online that I really wanted to watch, I just watch it at someone’s house. I also started watching PBS over broadcast a lot, which has resulted in me watching more documentaries.  So I might be more educated now.

  • http://www.genesworlds.com/ GeneD5

    While it may not matter from the watcher’s point of view when a show airs, thanks to DVRs, it matters from the network and studio side. Laying out a schedule in advance gives shows an opportunity to find their audience. A la carte viewing may eventually come, but niche genres and shows would have to fight that much harder to find ratings and money.

  • http://twitter.com/COMICBOOKMAN1 COMICBOOK MAN

    i use the dvr to record shows and help with their rating but I download shows JUST so i won’t have to fast forward thru commercials. 

  • JozefAL

    No, Graeme, the TV schedule is NOT outdated.  A DVR can’t program itself to record your “favorite” shows without your input (and, depending on your DVR, you may have to spend a bit of time ensuring that you get the right episodes, without reruns).  Also, your DVR may not factor in when those damnable sports shows decide to overrun their assigned time slots (I think Fox has FINALLY–after about 10 years–figured out to NOT schedule a new series on Sunday nights before 8pm ET/7pm CT, since the network tends to run a couple of Sunday NFL games during the fall).  Then, you’ve got the cable networks that fudge their start/end times so that you sit down and watch a show, only to realize you’re going to lose a minute or two at the end since you’re watching the last minute or two of the previous show.

    Then, of course, you’ve got the little problem that, if the networks didn’t announce their schedule, how are you going to know what shows to check out?  (That’s actually the main reason for the networks’ announcing their schedules.)  And what of cable programs?  The ones that don’t adhere to a specific schedule, but run for 10-12 episodes and are then off (except for reruns) for 6 months or a year? 

    And, as others have pointed out, DVRs are currently restricted to how many shows they can record at a time.  (Recently, I was having problems with Friday nights.  I’m at work until nearly midnight, but there were three different programs I wanted to record at the 8pm CT time–”Fringe,” “Grimm,” and “Degrassi.”  Well, of the three, only “Degrassi” had a same-night rerun, so I could DVR it at that time–though I later discovered the second run didn’t have previews for the next week’s episode.  And, as expected, all three are now done with new episodes–although “Degrassi” will be back in June or July.)

    As for the internet streaming, I’ve done that a few times, but I’m extremely unhappy with it.  For starters, I’m restricted to watching an internet stream on my computer so we’re looking at a fairly small screen.  But what I dislike is how some networks require you go to their proprietary service in order to watch a show online (I was trying to catch an episode of “The Cleveland Show” on Fox’s “on-demand service” but was told I couldn’t since my internet provider wasn’t one on Fox’s permitted list–meaning I can’t watch any Fox show like that.  I wasn’t really surprised since my cable system doesn’t have Fox “on-demand” through my cable box like some of the other networks).  The one time I made it through was to watch an ep of “No Ordinary Family” on ABC, but I was forced to sit through commercials to watch the show–and unlike my DVR, I couldn’t fast forward.  (Virtually every news website that offers a video with the story requires you to sit through a damn commercial before the video plays.)  And, you can’t even rely on the website to have the show you want.  Some shows or just episodes are up and down in a matter of weeks (I’ve found this common especially with current episodes–the latest may be up for a week or two, then pulled), and really–isn’t this just another form of a “TV schedule?”

  • rose

    Depending on what DVR you have, you would only be able to record two shows. I have the Hopper through Dish and with that you can record up to six shows at once. I saw this in action when I was at work months ago at Dish and knew I wanted it. With the PrimeTime Anytime it automatically will record primetime shows on NBC, CBS, ABC, and FOX, so you can record two other things as well on it. I love this receiver because I am a person that watches everything on my DVR and not live.

  • Ian A.

    Most shows are also available OnDemand, so you can catch ‘em even if your DVR’s booked solid during the programs’ actual timeslots. 

  • Alex Dragon

    The news is the only thing I watch in real time, everything else I DVR even if I’m at home at the time. It’s just faster to fastforward through the commercials or the show itself if it isn’t holding my interest. Plus with the DVR I never have to worry about the show changing time or day or tuning in to find out it’s a repeat. The DVR comes in especially handy on Sundays because it seems the networks put many of their strongest shows on then. It takes me til about Weds. to just catch up from the Sun. stuff. Yeah, there’s the problem of the DVR not being able to record more than 2 things at once but the stuff on cable repeats stuff over and over so I just record the later showing. Instead of recording GAME OF THRONES at 9 I just record it at 11. Same with MAD MEN.

    Another game changer is the ROKU. I hate watching anything long form on my computer but with the ROKU I can watch lots of free tv and movies and with my NETFLIX subscription I’m watching a bunch of series I missed the first time around. With the streaming HBO GO I can watch the entire HBO series of shows library anytime I want. That’s where I watched the entire first season of GAME OF THRONES in about a week. If I signed up ifor HULU I could have access to the regular network stuff…but there’s no need because my cable package offers ondemand service to most of the popular network stuff…if I missed DVRing something.

    So Schedules don’t mean that much to me other than I can’t watch something on a Monday that doesn’t come on until Thursday type thing. I know the networks would rather everyone watch their shows in real time but if I had to do that I wouldn’t watch most of the stuff I watch and wouldn’t be able to follow the constant time/schedule changes some shows go through. The DVR makes it it easier on everyone by eliminating “bad” timeslots for shows or the worry that people won’t watch on show over a fav that airs at the same time.

  • Demoncat4

    it still matters  for one needs to still know the time  of  a show to program the dvr to record it and also finish even as tv watching evolves to newer methods like the ipad and future types of media. one will still need to know the times of shows .

  • Alex

    Yeah. If the shows any good. I don’t like to watch stuff on a computer. It’s just annoying to me. Occasingly, I’ll watch something on Youtube. What I find amusing is that you used to be able to record stuff on VHS and stow it away for later, but you can’t do that anymore. YOu h ave a finite amount of time to watch, then you have to erase it. I could of had stacks of old Saturday Night LIves you can’t see anywhere anymore. I know they have a chopped up official versions, but you could literaly have something you can’t get on television today complete with the original music. You can’t record new SNL stuff like that and stash it away. WHich  is probably just as well because today’s SNL is terrible.

    YOu still have to know when the stuff is on and a lot of people just want to watch the stuff and not be hassled with the DVRs or internet, so it’s still neccesary.

  • RunnerX13

    There will always be “must watch live” shows; right now for me it’s Game of Thrones.

  • Dkharris74

    Most Network execs don’t consider dvr and internet results real they only count the tv ratings because they count advertisement spots and they don’t like it when you can fast forward thru them.

  • Ergo

    I haven’t watched TV in seven years and I’m watching more TV shows than I ever did before.

  • Tileyboy

    Of course we are! Aside from what they call water-cooler TV, where you must watch or miss out, such as major sports events, etc. which are openly discussed in the office, etc. hardly anyone watches shows as they’re broadcast due to the obvious advantages of convenience, and no ad breaks and so on…

    In due course, the PC / TV receiver will be replaced by a hub which services the whole house so everyone can watch what they want on their tablet, etc, much the same as I’m doing right now on my iPad while my missus watches something I have zero interest in.

    Shame, but they, that’s today’s technology for you.

  • Billiam456

    OnDemand doesn’t allow rewind or fast forward for most show now. they also have commercials so actually worse than watching live with a DVR (which you can pause and rewind at least)