Jury is out on Tivo Serial Killer Case

First Tivo changed the way you watched television, now the DVR concept that it pioneered is changing the programs that networks studios broadcast.  Let’s face it, everyone has their favorite show, even celebrities.  No one wants to miss them and schedules can sometime get overbooked, even for a date with the new flat panel HDTV.

Odds are you record it somehow, be it

That is if the show in question is a serial, where one episode picks up where last week’s left off.

Indeed, the rate of time-shifting and commercial avoidance is generally higher across the board for serialized programs.

Are DVRs, procedurals serial killers? – Entertainment News, Brian Lowry, Media – Variety

So you can understand when CBS has a hit that viewers watch, not just record, they reward it with a full season commitment

More than 17 million “NCIS: Los Angeles” fans can’t be wrong.

CBS has given full-season pickups to the “NCIS” spinoff and to its Tuesday-night companion, “The Good Wife.” Both dramas have performed well for the Eye after three airings on Tuesdays. Both hail from CBS Television Studios.

CBS picks up ‘NCIS,’ ‘Good Wife’ – Entertainment News, TV News, Media – Variety

On the flip side you have the likes of new serials, maybe not your average drama, also getting picked up.

Fox’s “Glee” (3.2/8 in 18-49, 7.3 million viewers overall) held up the best in the hour, challenging CBS for the 18-49 lead while winning comfortably among auds under 35 and helping Fox finish ahead of its pace on the comparable night a year ago.

‘Glee’ still glowing for Fox – Entertainment News, TV News, Media – Variety

Is there a formula that executives can follow to make a sure fire hit?  Probably not.  What they can do is to continue the recent trend, perhaps made popular by the complex drama LOST: the studio, ABC, posts all episode of previous seasons online for viewers to watch.  Your DVR may be great, but it has only so much room on there and people to forget to tell it to record from time to time.  This allows

  • new viewers to catch up from the very beginning
  • faithful followers to re-watch on a whim
  • any fan to easily see what they missed with only a 24 hour time delay

This is a strategy that should be employed for serials as the web becomes a useful tool to

  • market existing shows with web-exclusives
  • break new show by creating an internet buzz leading into the premieres
  • target advertizing to a niche audience that is invested in a serial

So is the serial soon to be a thing of the past among those without a DVR?  Not if the studios help out their audience and harness the power of their websites.  In the meantime, for the casual view flipping channels a procedural show who’s plot conclude by the episode’s end may have higher retention numbers.

CBS may be hedging their bets by posting full episodes of the procedural dramas on Tv.com, its television show portal that bears only a slight resemblance to Hulu.  If  you go there for a serial, maybe you some other show will catch your eye.  They even had a nice Tivo button so you can record upcoming episodes.  Might as well cover all your bases, right?


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