My favorite way to watch commercials is in fast forward. That generally allows me to have an idea of what’s going on without having to actually sit through the commercial. It gives me a chance to ask the important questions that I, as a TV viewer, have: Was that guy shirtless? What was that cat doing? I would totally eat that?
Well, the people over at Dish Network* are planning to make it so I’ll never know who was shirtless, what that cat did or whether I would eat that (or this). They’ve developed a system called, “The Hopper.” It has all sorts of features, but the one that will likely be most intriguing to advertisers is the one that will make it possible for DVR viewers to completely skip the commercials. No more fast-forwarding, just a few seconds of black screen before your show resumes. They’re calling it, “Auto-Hop.” I call it a slap in the face to anyone who’s ever bought pills because they liked the song that was playing in the commercial.
So what does this mean for TV networks and shows? Probably more product placement, which I don’t love, but I can live with. I would rather have Liz Lemon talking at length on 30 Rock about Sabor de Soledad, her favorite off-brand Mexican Cheetos (the secret ingredient may lead to a false positive pregnancy test), than not have her talking at all.
[youtube OZKmCrNPNBQ Sabor de Soledad]
Product placement may be more difficult for shows like Mad Men because it’s set in the past. Unless Ovaltine is still in business (It is! Based on the image of that little girl, I assume it causes you to lose teeth, which should be pointed out on the label.). I guess Lucky Strikes and Pond’s Cold Cream are still around too. What show isn’t after the elusive Ovaltine/Lucky Strike/Pond’s Cold Cream demo? All the shows I want to watch, that’s who.
Or, every TV show could have a huge cliffhanger at the end of each episode. Then people would feel obligated to watch immediately and not wait to watch later on their DVR. That would be fun for a while, but come on – that would get exhausting pretty quickly. I need my TV to be relaxing. If I wanted it to stress me out, I’d watch nothing but Breaking Bad. Can you imagine? I’d look like the Crypt Keeper by Memorial Day.
*And just for the record, Dish Network is the PT Cruiser of satellite TV providers. Just the fact that they’re involved in this makes it seem undignified. There, I said it.