Devastating DVR Data


The end is actually here. Sorry. Last Sunday evening I was home with my family doing what millions of other American families were doing — I was watching Celebrity Apprentice through my DVR 24 minutes delayed, so I could finish it at 11pm EDT, but skip all of the commercials.

Now, this is really old news. Lots of people I know use their DVR’s this way, but most don’t. They either forget to, or they simply record their favorite shows and watch them later (and skip the commercials).

As most of you know, I host a daily show called MediaBytes with Shelly Palmer. Every business day I pick the four or five stories about technology, media and entertainment that interest me the most and I talk about them. (Actually, my content is multi-format and available in multi-media, so it’s hard to call it a show. You can visit to see all of the ways – video, audio and text – that my daily messaging reaches my audience. But that’s not what this story is about.)

As most of you also know, I love television (the artform, not the platform) and I am a serious TV junkie. This season of Celebrity Apprentice is one of my guilty pleasures. To me, Sunday night’s episode was as good as it gets – high drama that built towards an ultimate showdown. I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice it to say, the show was excellent and the ending had Joan and Melissa Rivers demonstrating that they might benefit from some anger management training.

As much as I love TV, I am as cynical and jaded a viewer as you can imagine and the whole, “you’re fired!” thing is old, as is the reality genre. But — truth be told — I thought Mark Burnett and his team did a remarkable job keeping the show fresh and making a tired format feel new and exciting. So, without giving it a second thought, I included a story about the kind-of-surprise ending of Sunday night’s Celebrity Apprentice in MediaBytes with Shelly Palmer on Monday morning.

Here’s the as-recorded script: “The Donald fired Melissa Rivers last night triggering a very expletive deleted and entertaining exit. Not to be outdone, her mother, Joan laced into Melissa’s teammates (as only a mother can) and walked off the show as well. Just when you think you’ve been there and done that, Mark Burnett always finds a way to keep it fresh. Kudos Mark, Celebrity Apprentice rocks!”

Harmless, right? Wrong!!!

By 10:00am EDT Monday morning, I had dozens of emails from my viewers that all went something like this:

“Hey Shelly – What’s with giving away the Celebrity Apprentice scoop? In the world of DVR, we have to assume that not everyone is caught up (especially when a show airs on such a huge DVR night, like Sundays). Please, please be more cautious next time – or put a big SPOILER ALERT warning beforehand on the email and webcast. I promise that will make me avert my eyes. Thanks!”

This was the nicest one, I can’t print the others. Then there were the phone calls and voicemail messages, then the txt messages and assorted direct tweets, to say nothing of the fb messages and nasty wall postings. Holy $##@, Batman! It’s just a TV show.

The lesson here is hardcore and dispassionate. DVR’s are now completely mainstream. As Jeff Zucker likes to say, “The number one show at 10pm is TiVo!” Not just for early adopters, not just for industry people, for everyone! No matter what the focus group people tell us, no matter how many stats guys and strategy wonks say that penetration is only x% and people don’t really use it for this or for that — it’s over! The end is now.

I am usually the first person to tell a client that they cannot use themselves or their families as research subjects. But I’m not judging the tipping point by my own behaviors, I’m using much better armchair research. DVR’s are being used by average, normal people in the doing of their everyday life. Traditional television advertising will not recover.

As if this wasn’t depressing enough, DM’s on Twitter have almost completely replaced TXT messages in my world and, my FB profile page gets as many people commenting on my updates as do full blog posts.

So forget the economy, forget the swine flu, forget politics … tech notes-to-self:

• I must wait a suitable amount of time before discussing TV shows around my virtual water cooler to allow time-shifted viewing or incur the wrath of my friends and colleagues.

• I must carry a PDA with a Twitter app so that I can DM my friends and retweet important tweets to my followers.

• My facebook wall is now the center of my connected life and I must treat it accordingly.

Wow … and you thought the only people who liked change were babies in wet diapers. Shelly Palmer


About Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the Professor of Advanced Media in Residence at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and CEO of The Palmer Group, a consulting practice that helps Fortune 500 companies with technology, media and marketing. Named LinkedIn’s “Top Voice in Technology,” he covers tech and business for Good Day New York, is a regular commentator on CNN and writes a popular daily business blog. He's a bestselling author, and the creator of the popular, free online course, Generative AI for Execs. Follow @shellypalmer or visit



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