ABC’s New On-Demand Disables FFWD

ABC and its local affiliates are partnering with Cox Communications to provide an on-demand video service that lets you watch shows like Lost anytime you like. But according to The New York Times, you won’t be able to skip over the commercials.

The move is an attempt to stymie the growth of DVRs (and their sweet, sweet ffwd button). What’s galling isn’t so much the fact that ABC is making viewers sit through commercials — someone has to pay for those TV shows — but rather the venomous disdain the consortium has for the DVR technology. Here’s what Ray Cole, president of Citadel Communications, which owns three local ABC stations, told The Times.

“As network and affiliates, we both have an interest in slowing down the explosive growth of DVRs,” Mr. Cole said. “This is about combating DVRs. As we developed this at every stage, there was an agreement that however we put this together, disabling the fast-forward function was key.”

It’s a classic example of traditional media’s backward thinking: Attack convenience (and by extension, the viewer) rather than examining your own antiquated business models that gave birth to the technology in the first place. And recent studies regarding DVR use show the technology isn’t all bad for broadcasters. While one study found that 65 percent of DVR users always skip the commercials, another showed that DVRs have actually served to increase TV watching.

Despite its drawbacks, at least this move inches us closer to an on-demand world, a future utopia in which we all wear v-necked jumpsuits and laugh about the days when we actually had to “record” something rather than just turn it on anytime we like…after this message from our sponsor.

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