And When Ted Turner Did It, They Laughed at Him


No, not hook up with Jane Fonda. Start his TBS TV shows five minutes past the hour in order to screw with the other networks.

Now the nets skew their air times the better to screw TiVo users. Of course, anyone out there TiVoing network fare deserves everything they get. Come to think of it, if you are stuck on the proprietary TiVo tether, good luck all around, and enjoy those pop-up ads.

NEXT: Every Man a King of All Media

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  1. Is this a serious post or just a satire on clueless techno/culture snobs ranting in ignorance?

  2. Laughed at him? Have you SEEN Barbarella?

  3. Yeah, screw Tivo. All the cool kids use BitTorrent with RSS enclosures anyways.

  4. Hey, if they’re going to put House on at the same time as Scrubs, you bet your bippy I’m TiVo’ing Scrubs. Which clips off the very beginning. But you can adjust this manually, as the article says. Stupid networks. Same thing happens when 24 is going (being on opposite Scrubs, I mean)

  5. Some would argue that betting one’s bippy is just as good as investing in mutual funds …

  6. joe is right on…not only was Jane beautiful, her MSM persona as “fiercely independent” (from Tom Hayden and the Hanoi betrayal) gave Ted media visibility and credibility when he needed it.

  7. What is a bippy, anyway?

  8. As I said to another forum snarking about the popup ads: So they’re going to show more ads over ads I’m already not watching, and this is supposed to annoy me how?

    What really gets me about the TV broadcasters is how they just don’t understand it. Aren’t they supposed to try to get people to watch their shows, and with them their commercials? When they move show times around, and people miss part of them on their recording, it makes those people LESS likely to come back next week. The networks (all of them) are severely deluded if they think ‘Must See’ accurately describes any of their programming. If more of them looked at what people actually WANTED to watch enough to save it for later, they might understand better what people want to see. But like the record companies, they try to push the same tired old wrong idea that all offerings are of equal value. They treat people like the captive audience they desire, and then get petulant when even the sheep that activists continually decry don’t play along, and push for legislation and regulation to limit people’s freedoms.

    The MOST frightening meme, to my mind, is the one that says ‘people who skip commercials are STEALING content’. I know this forum has scoffed at this idea before, but I don’t think it can be argued against enough. To associate your viewers, in some instances your most loyal viewers (the ones who bother to create a Tivo Season Pass), with common criminals is wholly insulting.

    There are so many things they could do to get people to watch more commercials. ESPN has figured out two (off the top of my head): make commercials interesting and rotate them. OTA broadcasters haven’t got a clue with that. They use the SAME BORING CLIP REEL at every commercial break. And then complain when we don’t want to watch it the 5th time in an hour. Screw them, and the horse they rode in on.

  9. Screw them, and the horse they rode in on.

    If only they showed this during commercial breaks…

  10. Who fast forwards? That’s so analog.

    Skip, people, skip. That’s why the good people put hard drives inside DVRs instead of big giant loops of tape 😉

  11. I have to remain anonymous since i have agreed to be a “Nielsen family” with my Tivo. The networks are going to be surprised how their activities are going to affect their ratings. I no longer watch network programming, other than a few specialty shows such as CSI-Miami (a guilty pleasure). When they screw with the starting times, i just stop watching those shows. i do skip over many commercials since they are not directed at my demographic. They may be surprised to know that there are many times that i stop my fast-forwarding when i see a commercial that is actually directed towards me. i have watched commercials more than once, WHEN THEY ACTUALLY PERTAIN TO ME!! i can hardly wait for the TV ratings to actually reflect what i watch. Expect the ad rates for the Discovery Channel, Turner Classic Movies (sorry but no ads here, thank god), the Golf Channel and SpongeBob Squarepants to go thru the roof.

    Also, it was a Fox exec who said that people who don’t watch the ads are thiefs. Once That 70’s Show goes off the air, I will not watch anything on Fox. I thank the Lord every day for Tivo and the fact that I can now create my own “network” and if Tivo has to run a few more ads that i can ignore as a price to buy off the Huns, so be it.

  12. Screw them, and the horse they rode in on.

    Recalling B. Kliban’s classic cartoon, “The Birth of Advertising,” I wouldn’t say they were exactly “riding” the horse.

    I always start my VCR five or more minutes ahead of the expected show and stop it five or more minutes after, just in case networks try any funny-stuff. Because we have digital cable at my house, and no Tivo-like product (yet!), I am not able to program the VCRs to switch from channel to channel, as they cannot control the cable box, which is the source of their incoming signal. We bought TWO VCRs so we could have them going simultaneously, if necessary to defeat nefarious counterprogramming. This also works reasonably well if we’re trying to catch staggered programming on different channels. One VCR catches as much of Channel A as we want (with a 5 minute cushion on either side), while the other catches what we need from Channel B (with the same cushion). If necessary, we can schedule multiple taping sessions on each machine, and there is usually enough gap between them to permit manual changing of the cable box AND the necessary pre- and post- cushion.

    Yes, it can get a bit complex on what I call “trainwreck TV nights.” But as an ad hoc system, our works and has proven far less expensive and more comprehensive than a single Tivo.

    What I REALLY want for Christmas is a Tivo that can capture multiple, simultaneous programs from the incoming cable feed (for “trainwreck nights”) and deposit them on DVD for later viewing at our leisure. Video on Demand (even via a delayed distribution approach such as Netflix) would be even better, but the technology to do the super DVD multi-stream Tivo is here now, while the industry agreement to permit VOD may not materialize for some time.

    Anonymous is dead-on in saying that people will watch commercials when they are INTERESTING, PERTINENT TO THE AUDIENCE, and NOT REPEATED SO OFTEN AS TO BECOME NOISE. Go down to your local supermarket or convenience store, and you will find racks of weekly publications that are wholly devoted to ads, with little or no editorial content. They are distributed for FREE because they work: LOTS of people want to read, hear or see commercial content when it SUITS them. Forcing them to watch ads is counterproductive, and both the TV industry and its advertisers had better come up with a better, friendlier approach, or they’ll soon find themselves making nowhere plans for nobody.

  13. Screw them, and the horse they rode in on.

    “If only they showed this during commercial breaks…”

    Except in Alabama

  14. There is a lengthy discussion on this very topic over at It gives a geeks perspective.

    It seems clear to me that since it is no longer PC to read our children the brothers Grimm (spelling anyone?) fairy tales that not a single executive at either the major tv networks, the movie studios, or the record industry has ever bothered to read or hear the story about the guy who killed the goose that layed the golden egg.

    Let me say this slowly and carefully Mr. or Ms. executives, If you piss off the consumers of your content, they will stop watching and listening to your product.

    If know one watches your shows, no one will buy advertising and then your FUCKED! Is that really a difficult concept for you people? Yes, I know you are worried that someone somewhere might actually pee during a commercial break, or mute the commercials so they can hear their wives bitch. But don’t worry, I teach economics in the public schools and I can tell you that there are probably millions of people in this country who are too lazy to either mute a commercial or skip through it, so relax. If you are truly worried about people not watching the commercials try these suggestions.

    1. Stop compressing the audio signals of the commercials so that when they come on they are so loud people have little recourse but to push the mute button.

    2. As noted above, how about commercials that are entertaining, I must have watched that Ozzy Pepsi commercial a hundred times, it was entertaining.

    3. Try spending some of the money you spend on overpaid actors on writers. Look at the simpsons, none of their voice actors pull down a million bucks an episode, but you can bet they hire some of the best writers in the business.

    4. Try to make your shows easier and not harder to watch. A few years ago, Fox aired it’s own halftime show, they even put a little clock in the lower corner so you would know when to switch back did it work? I don’t know, but is sure beat the hell out of a rerun of Old Yeller.

    5. Try using the Shakespeare approach to writing. Throw in some sex and violence for lower elements of society and some great intrigue and character development for those of us who like something called plot.

    If you follow the above suggestions you can enjoy continued growth and profit, otherwise you can follow the idiocy of the music industry and bankrupt yourselves.



  15. I had no idea so many people were into taping TV shows — digitally or, um, analoggy. I’ve never in my life felt compelled to record a television show for future watching.

    I’m not making one of those sanctimonious “TV? Sniff!” judgments here. I watch TV. But I’m genuinely amazed that so many folks apparently have created something of an art/science out of recording, and that it’s such an important part of their leisure lives. Strange phenomenon to me.

  16. I realize that should have been an adverb there, so make that “analogally.”

    “Analoguelly” if you’re snooty.

  17. What is a bippy, anyway?

    After allowing Laugh-In to say “You bet your bippy” for a few episodes, NBC censors became convinced that they were being tricked into allowing something dirty on the air. They demanded to know what a bippy was. Dick Martin answered “It’s a little bip.”

  18. Same here, Sam. I bought a vcr back when they first became generally available (and won’t say what I paid for it!). I thought, “This will be great. I can tape things when they’re on and watch whenever I want.”

    It didn’t take long for the novelty to wear off and I found I was taping things but never watching them. So I stopped that and just the used the vcr for rented tapes.

    That vcr eventually wore out. I bought another, it wore out. Then another. Each one cost about a third of what I paid for its predecessor. The last one died some time back (I’m not really sure when because I wasn’t paying attention) and went into the trash with no replacement. I can’t remember that last time I thought, “Gee, I wish I could record that show and watch it later.”

    What with a zillion cable channels and a zillion zillion entertaining and informative web sites, if I can’t find something to look at on screen at any given time, it must be time to go to bed or wash the car or maybe even talk to the wife.

  19. Hey, you guys still watch TV?

  20. Sam,

    It’s not so much that it’s an art, or a science, with a Tivo. J.A.M.’s system with the two VCR’s up there, that might go into ‘art’, but with a Tivo, it really is more like reprogramming the TV schedule. You just don’t have to worry about being at the set when the show starts, being there at all when the show is on, or sitting through the commercials if you don’t want to. You also can gain quite a bit of time. Generally, we compress an hour of commercial programming to 45 minutes. You could get a little tighter with that, but it would take effort.

    In my estimation, a major problem with the programming on TV now, especially the broadcast networks, is that they realize finally that they aren’t the only game in town. The loss of advertising revenue and market share has finally hit them where it counts. But their response to this hasn’t been to try to recapture that share from cable. They only try to compete against the other broadcast networks, trying to take a bigger slice of an ever-shrinking pie. The advertisers realize this, and lower the amounts they’re willing to pay (or raise them less, more like), and what do networks respond with? Cutting costs to protect their profits. That’s the main force behind the glut of ‘reality’ shows. They are cheap. But cheap TV is evident to viewers, and eventually loses the teeny bit of novelty it had.

    Companies that won’t face reality might be the biggest threat to consumers.

  21. Sam I was says, “But I’m genuinely amazed that so many folks apparently have created something of an art/science out of recording…”

    Considering the cliche is that 90+% of us don’t even know how to program a VCR at all, even enough to set the time, I can see your point. For myself, I can only say that development of our taping “system” was in direct response to 1) the rigors of the three increasingly busy lives in our family; 2) The extreme high cost of outside-the-home entertainment; and 3) the cutthroat counterprogramming maneuvers of the networks, which seem dedicated to the now-absurd proposition that viewers MUST choose only one program from any timeslot.

    At my house, TV viewing is mostly a group thing. We use the VCR to accumulate programs we like or that seem worthwhile to watch as a family, but we can rarely arrange to get together at the precise time the networks have selected for the broadcast. We don’t often have time or inclination to channel-surf until we find something to watch, anymore than we have time or inclination to browse magazines at the supermarket. Instead, to continue the analogy, I suppose you could say we are “subscribers” who are put in the position of having to acquire issues of their favorite “magazines” by going around to the individual publishers. As you can imagine, there are few shows on TV today that merit even the level of effort that we put into actively controlling our viewing time. But there are enough that the benefits of our “system” still outweigh the cost.

    We tend to fast-forward through most commercials, but stop at a few favorites (the “Ozzy/Pepsi” was one of ours, too), or those that seem new or interesting — especially program promos that plug upcoming new episodes. I actually prefer skimming to outright skipping of commercial breaks. Honestly, advertisers, we are receptive to your messages, just don’t waste our time while you are trying to get our money.

    We already get our movies and older TV series on DVD from Netflix, which is another example of a mechanism that provides for active control of one’s viewing habits. If our favorite series were also available this way, we would be glad to give up our “system” in a heartbeat. If, on those DVDs, ads for products or other programs were gathered in one area, we would probably at least skim through them in most cases, especially if the sponsors were listed on the disc label or sleeve. On the other hand, forcing people to watch the promos, as has been proposed for commercial DVDs that people must pay to own or rent, is simply unacceptable.

    Just so you know, we like to attend live music and theatre, and go to the movies and the occasional sporting event, too. But, owing to sky high ticket prices and other inconveniences (including the aforementioned, busy three-way schedule), such excursions are special treats — which we can more readily afford because the bulk of our family entertainment comes from cost-effective cable and NetFlix subscriptions, the value of which we maximize through our dual-VCR taping “system.”

    If, as Sam suggests, “so many folks” are recording TV shows as our family does, perhaps this indicates that there IS still quality entertainment and information to be had on TV, which rewards those who put a little effort into the hunt. Indeed, that situation would seem little different from the general shopping proposition. By paying attention to sales and having a little discipline in passing up impulse items, for example, we save between 20 and 35 percent on our weekly grocery bills (relative to regular prices), even at regular supermarkets (and not counting our patronage of big-box stores such as Costco). Recalling that “a penny saved is a penny earned,” I would like to meet financial investors who routinely earn 20-35% on their investments, viewed week-to-week. We probably wouldn’t need too big a room for the get-together. The effort necessary to work our TV taping “system” is similarly the effort needed to distill an entertainment package of maximum value for ourselves, while minimizing the amount of money spent for the pleasure.

  22. Highway touts the convenience of a Tivo. Will a Tivo tape two or more shows simultaneously from a digital cable feed? Remember, we have a damned box between us and the TV signal, a box which cannot be controlled programmatically through or in concert with our VCRs. This necessity was as much a mother of the taping system described above as the other reasons I enumerated.

    If Comcast ever gets their act together here in Santa Cruz and offers true V-O-D, or a PVR that can capture multiple simultaneous programs from their digital feed (or to the extent that the networks will ever abandon single-winner counter-programming schemes), I’d certainly like to get back some of the time back that I now spend on the “art” of our “system.” That would even be worth a few bucks to me. If our system is “art,” it is the kind of folk art that arises because of, or at least in spite of, frustrating obstacles — often put in place by other people who seek to rule or dominate.

  23. Yes, it can get a bit complex on what I call “trainwreck TV nights.”

    You’re spending WAY too much time and effort watching TV. If networks and producers want to screw with their starting times, screw them. I’m not going to adjust my schedule around them. Someone already said it; there’s no such thing as “must see” TV.

    I must admit that “trainwreck TV” is an appropriate phrase, but for different reasons than the original poster intended. Except for the fact that it’s much easier to look away from TV than from the proverbial rail-borne disaster.

  24. DB says, “You’re spending WAY too much time and effort watching TV. If networks and producers want to screw with their starting times, screw them.”

    DB: If we spent only three hours a week watching TV (and often, being busy, we spend less) we would still have to go to some effort to see our two or three favorite shows on a regular basis, because of all the network counterprogramming maneuvers. You may feel that you have better things to do with your time than watch TV: chiding other Hit and Run posters for their TV viewing habits under a pseudonym, for instance. But there is some stuff on the tube worth watching. We probably don’t spend as much time and effort working our “taping system” every week, for example, as we would to go see live theatre once a week — assuming that there was that much live theatre of any quality to watch in our local area. We certainly don’t spend anywhere near the MONEY that frequent live theatre or musical concerts would cost us, even if you count the value of my own time in setting up the VCRs.

    I lay the blame for counterprogramming squarely at the feet of asinine network executives (is there any other kind?). Just because some jerk of a network executive wants to muck up a good thing, should I say “screw the good thing” if it takes me more than the normal amount of couch-potato effort to acquire it? I get my revenge by not watching the commercials unless I WANT to.

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