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A Dissenting View: DVR’s and Sports

Via Andrew Sullivan, I see that Matthew Yglesias is arguing How Technology Helps Hollywood and Hurts Pro Sports:

It used to be that a sporting event only had to compete for my eyeballs against whatever other TV programming happened to be on right at that moment. Oftentimes a regular season Mavericks-Celtics game or an ALCS matchup would win that competition in my eyes. But today thanks to Netflix, DVR, Hulu+ and related technologies that ALCS matchup has to compete against continuing to work my way through Breaking Bad.

Now, I suppose Matthew has a point insofar as various video on demand services and devices are killing casual viewing of all kinds of programming.  After all, why watch something you only kinda want to watch when you can watch exactly what you want?

I was drawn to the headline question of Andrew’s link to Matthew’s post:  Is Your DVR Killing Sports Broadcasts?  I was struck by the question because the only thing that I watch live (i.e,. not on my TiVo or via Netflix streaming) is sports (and breaking news).  As such, the only time I watch commercials is when I watch sporting events—making sports the only DVR-proof regular viewing that I engage in,

What my TiVo killed wasn’t sports, channel-surfing (and regular commercial consumption).

As such, in the new DVR-universe we are all increasingly living in, live sports is huge for commercial-driven broadcast television.  Therefore it would seem that DVR’s, rather than killing sports broadcasts, make sports broadcasts all the more important.  And contra Yglesias, the technology is helping sports as a result, yes?

BTW:  at least one data point (NFL ratings) suggests that DVRs are not hurting sports:  Football TV Ratings Soar: the NFL’s Playbook for Success (for some 2010 numbers).

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor and Chair of Political Science at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. He is the author of Voting Amid Violence: Electoral Democracy in Colombia and is currently working on a comparative study of the US to 29 other democracies. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging at PoliBlog since 2003. Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. MBunge says:

    MattY’s problem isn’t the DVR, it’s that he’s getting older and his tastes are changing.

    Mike

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  2. Therefore it would seem that DVR’s, rather than killing sports broadcasts, make sports broadcasts all the more important. And contra Yglesias, the technology is helping sports as a result, yes?

    That’s my thought as well. DVR’ing a sporting event is difficult to begin with because it’s never clear when it will end. Even if you change recording options to account for that, though, there’s just something not right about watching something that’s meant to be enjoyed while it’s happening on delay. Which is why I’d imagine the only time people do it is when personal commitments prevent them from being at home. The only person likely to be in the position that Yglesias imagines is the casual sports fan.

    What this suggests, of course, is that the value of advertising within sports broadcasts is only going to continue to increase, which means that the value of the television contracts the networks sign with the NFL, NCAA, MLB, etc are also going to increase.

    Like you said, rather than hurting sports broadcasting, the DVR may be the best thing that has happened to it in long time.

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  3. @MBunge:

    I think you have a point here. I think Yglesias is taking his personal experience and extrapolating in an invalid manner. Some people may decide to watch “Black Swan” on On Demand on a Sunday at 1:00pm Eastern, but they’re not really the loyal NFL market to begin with I suspect.

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  4. MLB.TV, a subscription service of MLB.com, includes online DVR. I subscribed last season and i could watch games live online in HD or wait untl the next day to watch the archived full game. Or the highlight reel, Or the abbreviated version, which showed key plays from every inning.

    I DVR NFL games with some regularity because my work schedule walks on about half the games I want to watch. But the first thing I check before watching a recorded game is whether my team won. If not, I rarely watch it. If I do watch it, I FF through the commercials.

    But I have never watched a DVR’d program instead of a live game.

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  5. John Burgess says:

    Okay, I’m in a really tight sports niche. I admit it.

    The only sports I’m interested in watching is Red Sox baseball. No others interest me very much. I won’t leave the room if Wimbledon tennis is on; I’ll watch World Cup soccer if one of the few teams that interest me are playing. Basketball, football, hockey? Couldn’t give a fig.

    I subscribe to the (overpriced) MLB.com streaming service so that I can watch most of the Red Sox games. If Armageddon were being televised across from a Sox game, I’d have a tough choice. I certainly wouldn’t leave a game for much less.

    MLB.com doesn’t stream games that are shown on national TV and they block out games against the Tampa Rays as local market. I have to watch the TV for those games, though I use MLB.com audio in (vast) preference to the local coverage.

    I don’t have DVR and don’t seem to need it. Those TV things I might want to watch are better watched on Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu. In fact, except for news and those handful of local Sox games, I don’t really watch TV at all.

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  6. Boyd says:

    @Doug Mataconis: My first thought was roughly the same as your point in this comment, Doug: as so often happens to online pundits, they erroneously believe they’re typical, when they’re often wildly aberrant from the norm.

    Matt, I suspect, is suffering a bout of “I’m The Common Man” here.

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  7. mantis says:

    the only thing that I watch live (i.e,. not on my TiVo or via Netflix streaming) is sports (and breaking news). As such, the only time I watch commercials is when I watch sporting events—making sports the only DVR-proof regular viewing that I engage in,

    I had not really thought about it before, but I’m exactly the same way. The only things I watch live are sports (and election returns, but I largely stuck with the Web in 2010; cable news just makes me ill), and the only commercials I watch are during sports I watch.

    @MBunge: @Doug Mataconis:

    Some people may decide to watch “Black Swan” on On Demand on a Sunday at 1:00pm Eastern, but they’re not really the loyal NFL market to begin with I suspect.

    I would agree. I made my way through Breaking Bad too, but not during the games I wanted to watch. It’s not even a fair competition. Netflix is always there. The game is being played now. I need to watch the Bears lose!

    I suppose if I watched more live TV, I would watch more TV at the time it airs. But sports and significant news events are the only things that seem important enough to watch as they happen. The rest can wait.

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  8. Trumwill says:

    The main reason I don’t watch sports on time delay is that it’s impossible to check the score of other games going on without spoiling what is about to happen. The ticker scores are not frequent enough. Sometimes I will start about 15-20 minutes in, but not even that.

    I do DVR games to re-watch in the offseason, if the good guys won.

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  9. Console says:

    Yeah, I didn’t really understand Matt’s post. As everyone’s pointed out, regardless of the availability of media, sports have to be watched live to be truly enjoyable while your DVR’d show is still going to be there whether you watch it now or not.

    For my personal anecdote, the way technology has hurt sports is that I no longer have cable. So since I have to go out to see most games, I’m more choosy about the games I do watch.

    Normally I’d be on Yglesias’s site, making fun of him for posting Mcardlesque anecdotal nonsense as analysis. But I can only take Slate in small doses.

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  10. Dave says:

    I’ll go one step further:

    Not only are sports the only live TV I watch, if it weren’t for sports, I don’t even think I’d have cable.

    I’d rather spend that cash on Netflix (which I already have anyway) and on buying season passes for select scripted shows on iTunes. The only thing that keeps me cutting a check to Comcast each month is Monday Night Football, Grand Slam Tennis, and the NBA on ESPN and TNT.

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  11. rodney dill says:

    @mantis:

    I need to watch the Bears lose!

    Excellent!

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  12. Franklin says:

    Live sports isn’t even live enough at times. I used to live close enough to a certain well-known stadium that I could hear the crowd roar at the stadium before I saw what happened on the TV.

    I’m okay with the inherent delays of sending the data through satellites and whatever, but the extra 5 or 10 second intentional delay to make sure we don’t accidentally see a nipple is a bunch of bullcrap.

    As for watching a DVR’d sporting event later in the day: if I wanted to watch something that old, I’d watch ESPN Classic or maybe the History Channel.

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  13. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I gave up TV years ago and the only thing I miss IS sports. Every now and again I drive into town just to catch a game.

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  14. Bill Jempty says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Overall I prefer sports life, but sometimes life gets in the way.

    On Thanksgiving Day the church I attend and where my wife also works, had a dinner. The wife and I went. The Miami-Dallas NFL game was going on at the same time and I don’t skip watching Dolphins football.

    I DVRd the game and when I got back from church, the game was over an hour old but I rewinded(Without seeing the score luckily) and watched it from the start. With agile use of the fast forward button, I got caught up real time sometime early in the 4th quarter.

    This week my favorite hockey team, the Florida Panthers, play two west coast games and both start at 10:30. That means an at least 1 am finish. My wife is an early riser(5 am), and I get sort of wound up from watching the cats(Calling out “Come on Florida”, “Yes!”, “Damn it!” or when Florida’s opponent has a power play and the puck is in the Florida zone- “Get the puck out of there!”) It’s tough to unwind after a game and Florida is playing great this year(2nd best record in the whole Eastern Conference). I’m probably going to tape the two games and watch them the next morning. So to keep me in expense I’ll avoid ESPN, Yahoo’s NHL Blog Puck Daddy, and the Panthers blog Litterbox Cats. Games are best enjoyed live but can be enjoyed on delay if you avoid accidentally learning the score of the game ahead of time.

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  15. Lomax says:

    One of the really great events in sports history took place recently – the last NASCAR race of the season which ended in a tie, won by Tony Stewart. The whole season was decided by 100 feet.
    Stewart came back 3 times from the rear of the field. This was a race for the ages: it is doubtful we will ever see this again in our life time.

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  16. Sam P says:

    I hardly watch any TV live, even sports. For NFL games, the 30-second skip function lets me jump from the end of a play to the start of the next play (almost always, if not, the 9-second jump back function usually gets me to a good spot), so I can usually watch a game in about an hour and a half. This allows me to watch all the broadcast games in not unreasonable amount of time. More football, less filler.

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