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In the News Scott Jones



If you are trying to make it through another brutal winter in the North, look on the bright side: Once we make it through February, spring is right around the corner. Even though I live in New York, this winter has seemed shorter. The reason? ReplayTV.

I got ReplayTV for Christmas and I will say right here that it has changed the way I watch television. If you don’t know what ReplayTV is, it’s a Personal Video Recorder (PVR). Basically it is a computer that works like a VCR on steroids. You just hook it up to your TV and you’re all set.

Even FCC chairman Michael Powell is a convert. At CES last month, he said, “My favorite product that I got for Christmas is TiVo [another PVR]...TiVo is God’s machine.”

To record a show I push one button, to watch a show I push two buttons, and the best part is...no commercials. I can see why ReplayTV has Hollywood and network executives shaking in their boots. I have not seen a commercial in months and I love it.

When you play back a show, ReplayTV skips over the commercials. I have no idea how it does this, I’m just glad it does. I also like the fact that I get to watch the shows I want to watch at the time I want to watch them.

I have set up my unit to record all the shows I want, then when I feel like watching TV, I watch what I want, not what’s on at that time. If I record a newscast, I can watch the show in about 10 minutes.

I watch part of the first block, and then I jump ahead to the end of weather, so I can find out whether or not it will snow tomorrow. I really could care less about all the other weather crap, just tell me what tomorrow’s weather will be and I’m happy. I then jump ahead and watch the first sports story and I’m done. The news I want in just a few minutes and not a single commercial. ReplayTV rocks!

But what does this technology mean to people working in TV? If viewers are skipping over the spots, why should advertisers pay to be on TV? There is no question this is a great debate about how commercial television will survive in the future.

I would love to tell you that I have the answer, but I don’t. Sure we’re still talking years before ReplayTV or TiVo will be in most homes, so it’s not like this problem is immediate. But, there is no question that this will be a problem in the future. I know that after using the technology, I will never go back to watching TV the old way.

It’s the same thing on the Internet; software stops pop-up ads, and banner ads are not that effective. To make money on the net, many sites, such as F-ckedTelevision.com, are charging for content. Will local TV have to start looking into doing the same thing? Would you really pay to watch most of the local newscasts in many markets? If you did pay, I am sure you’d only shell out the cash to watch one station, which means the weak stations in the market would be toast.

HBO has proven that a pay channel can make a ton of money. Its business plan is totally different from, say, that of CBS. I am sure that networks could make it as pay channels, but what about local TV? Other than news, most local stations don’t do any other local programming. They say it has gotten too expensive to produce. But it might just be the local programming that helps these stations survive in the future. I would rather watch a really good locally produced talk show than Larry King lob softballs at Anna Nicole Smith for an hour.

Hollywood is trying to win the battle with ReplayTV and TiVo in the courtroom. I don’t think it stands a chance. It is time the suits start looking to the future. Right now, I’m going to watch The Daily Show. Commercial-free of course...

Scott Jones is a former photographer, reporter, assignment editor, producer, executive producer, and Top 20 news director. He runs www.ftvlive.com and can be reached by email at sjones@uemedia.com.