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Why DVRs aren't the enemy of NBC's 'Heroes'

HeroesbrothersAre DVRs killing serialized shows? Or are producers just looking for scapegoats?

In case you haven't heard, Tim Kring, executive producer of NBC's onetime hit drama "Heroes," got himself in hot water with recent comments about viewers and DVRs. Kring said that DVRs are making it tougher for serialized shows like "Heroes."

At a screenwriting conference earlier this month, Kring said of the serialized trend:

It's a very flawed way of telling stories on network television right now, because of the advent of the DVR and online streaming. The engine that drove [serialization] was you had to be in front of the TV [when it aired]. Now you can watch it when you want, where you want, how you want to watch it, and almost all of those ways are superior to watching it on air. So [watching it] on air is related to the saps and dips---- who can't figure out how to watch it in a superior way.

The vast majority of the commentary prompted by Kring's remarks centered, not surprisingly, on the "saps and the dips----" part. Hey, he called people who don't have DVRs saps! What a nasty guy! (Kring later apologized.)

But as for his larger point: Is it true? Are DVRs really hurting serialized shows? The networks have a lot riding on that answer, because 1) DVRs currently make up about 28% of the Nielsen Media Research sample and their use is growing, and 2) some of the hottest shows in recent years, including "Lost," "24" and "Heroes," have been heavily serialized. If DVRs are killing these types of shows, network TV could be in even bigger trouble than we thought.

But the evidence for Kring's claim doesn't look very strong. Nielsen stats for the week ending Nov. 2 show that "Heroes" was among the most-time-shifted shows on television, with nearly 40% of its total audience watching on a nonlive basis. Only CW's "90210" and NBC's "The Office" got bigger bumps from DVR usage.

That DVRs could only help serialized series seems intuitive as well. The ability to record multiple programs enables viewers to manage time more effectively and juggle more competitng programs than they otherwise could. They can avoid bailing on a complicated show just because they happened to miss an episode that, say, aired at an inconvenient time. And while there's no question that DVR usage is artificially depressing "live + same day" ratings (ie, numbers that include DVR viewing the same day a show airs), that should not matter over the long run, because the trend is effecting all shows at the same time, if not necessarily equally.

The DVR, looked at this way, is "Heroes'" friend, not its enemy. (Kring could not be reached to comment at his office late Wednesday.) 

What's ailing some serialized shows is probably not so much new technology as a glut of similar products elsewhere. There are now plenty of shows with an intricate "mythology," as producers like to say. So if one of them disappoints you -- as many fans have grown cold on "Heroes" lately -- there's another show for you to check out somewhere else.

No reason to be bored these days, in other words. Even if you're a sap without a DVR.

--Scott Collins   

Photo: Peter and Nathan Petrelli (left to right, Milo Ventimiglia and Adrian Pasdar).  Associated Press

 
Comments () | Archives (5)

Typical Holywod elitists that think they're smarter and more insightful than anyone else in the public. PLEEEZ Always thinking their the smartest people in the room. Don't make excuses for weak storylines.

Scott,
Should be "Heroes's".

Well, I'm catching up on Heroes on Netflix intstant streaming, and I plan to watch the new ones the same way. I also watch most of the CBS crime dramas that way.

Mr. Kring has a legitimate business problem though. He gets no revenue from my enjoyment of Heroes. I don't watch any commercials when I do.

On the flip side, the only way I'll commit to a show is on my own terms. Either Tivo, an archived stream, or DVDs. So Mr. Kring has indeed gotten a viewer, but only because of the technology that he dislikes.

By the way, Mr. Kring, if you are reading this, my wife and I have recently enjoyed Seasons 1 & 2 very much. We're just starting to work our way through Season 3. You, and your cast and crew, have done good. Keep it up.

It's so ridiculous how people don't truly pay attention to what's being said. He said the perception is that people who don't have DVR's and this other technology are saps and dips, he didn't say that people who don't have it are definitively saps and dips. But of course people choose not perceive everything they're told, but just want to take the jist, or hear what they want to.

At any rate, I'm a huge fan of heroes, but I'm one of those that DVR the show. Unfortunately my girlfriend doesn't like the show, and Two and a Half Men is on at the same time, which she will grudgingly watch. So we watch that during the first half and one of her shows for the second half. But that's the great thing about DVR, you can still get viewers like me who has no other choice but to watch it on my own terms.

Heroes has a complex story arc - it's much easier to watch 3-4 episodes in one sitting so you can keep track of the constant plot twists. Compare that to, say, House, where you can remember who House annoyed last week and whether Chase or Cuddy is dating someone, and the rest of the plot's character development and the Medical Mystery of the Week; watching those one at a time is fine, even if you don't get it in order.

Meanwhile, who's home every night at Prime Time? That's when you should be taking your kid to some activity, or joining your local music jam, or having dinner with friends, or shopping or something. Let Tivo watch the tube for you.


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