Skip to content
Subscriber Only
Megan McArdle

Why DVRs Didn't Kill TV

There is social value in live televised events that can definitely be discussed around the water cooler tomorrow. 
Must-see TV.
Must-see TV.

The brilliant and ever-fascinating sociologist Gabriel Rossman has some brilliant and ever-fascinating observations about the nature of the television market. DVRs, he points out, should have two effects. The first is that they should drive up the advertising value of sports programming, because sporting events are not much fun to DVR and watch later, after you've already heard a dozen people discussing last night's game. Because people can't time-shift much, they end up actually watching the ads, which makes those programming slots much more valuable than your typical scripted show.

The other thing Rossman points out is that DVRs should make sports programming more expensive, but also less popular. As the price (including the nonfinancial cost of having to sit through ads, or at best go get a snack instead of fast-forwarding) goes up, then some of the marginal viewers, who like both sports and nonsports programs, should be substituting the cheaper scripted shows for expensive live sporting coverage.