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Location: Hamilton Square, New Jersey, United States

Tax guy, host & producer of the Consumerism Commentary Podcast, former co-host of the Wall Street Journal E-Report

Monday, December 12, 2005

Kids and TiVo

WSJ.com's (and former "Talkin' Tech" co-host) Jason Fry touched on an interesting topic in his Real Time column today...how children growing up with TiVo might change the future of TV. Since it was a topic of interest and because I hate wasting long emails, here's how I replied to Jace, slightly edited to remove personal content.

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The wife and I started out with a 35 hour TiVo on our den TV and then with regular DirecTV receivers in our bedroom and in my office in the basement. In just over a year's time, we've upgraded everything so that we now have 70 hour TiVos in our den and in my office and the old 35 hour one has moved to our bedroom. Ignoring my grumbling, the wife insisted that we NOT get the more expensive, networkable Series 2 models and settled for the Series 1 models instead. Hey, I still have 70 hours of my own TiVo space, so I can't complain TOO much.

I've often wondered the same thing about Matt too, and exactly how it's going to affect his TV watching. But on a more elementary level. First, both you and I had an easy learning experience with TV when we were growing up. We knew how to turn the TV on and only had a limited number of channels to flip through (2 through 13, plus the UHF subset). There wasn't much of a learning curve to overcome...we just flipped through the channels (manually, at that) until we found something we liked.

But with TiVo, whoever is flipping through channels needs to have a basic knowledge of the language. Since it has a little green dot on the remote, the "power" button shouldn't be a problem. But if you're pre-schooler, how do you successfully navigate through hundreds of channels? You can go to the guide, but that requires reading. You can always go to the "Now Playing" list, but even that requires reading. But, hey, that might be a good thing. It would force them to read and, since there's only a limited amount of choices, they wouldn't be easily overwhelmed. I assume picking out "Sesame Street" and "Jack's Big Music Show" would be easily recognizable.

As for commercials, I think kids would watch them. Think about it...we didn't really get annoyed by commercials until we were older (well, at least I didn't). We just took them in as part of the entertainment. Hell, I actually found myself singing the "Merlin" toy commercial this weekend ("Now where's Merlin, where did he go, he's in the corner playing tic tac toe"). Besides, with our short attention spans, odds are we were probably distracted by something else and weren't glued to the TV absorbing every word being said. Besides, without commercials, how the hell would we know what toys to pester our parents for?

Where will we be two, five or ten years from now? It wouldn't surprise me to see networks pre-airing their shows on their website. (is anyone doing this already?) Create a buzz, tell people that an episode will be aired early via their website for a fee (complete with unsurpassable commercials), and then see who bites. This way the "cool" kids will know the story a day or two before the rest of the slackers who didn't download it. And then, of course, TVs/TiVos/DVRs will be geared to perform this download function as well so that you can watch the episode on your TV instead of your PC, which might further close the gap between TV and PC altogether. But that's probably reaching too far ahead.

1 Comments:

Blogger Darren said...

Interesting discussion. Regarding commercials, though, I think that it's not a matter of whether or not the kids will get annoyed watching them. They'll do what they see their parents doing, and when their parents always fast forward through commercials, they are likely to, as well.

12/12/2005 6:46 PM  

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