PVRs and timeshifting – losing the power of the random

Image from here, also about timeshifting and PVRs, worth a read

You read a lot about people timeshifting TV, skipping ads, watching on-demand services like iPlayer.

Well I am that person – the unreachable TV viewer, the media buyer’s nightmare. Live TV is a rare event in our flat since the purchase of a PVR a few years ago, which archives everything we feel we might like to watch at some distant point in the future.

It is currently full of worthy documentaries which we feel too guilty to delete. We pretend they are not there and stick on the 30 Rock box set instead. The only live shows we see are the news, and the Daily Show on More4.

I was thinking last night about what effects timeshifting has had on how we actually watch TV and what we might be missing out on.

Firstly, when we do watch live TV, myself and my partner are absolutely enthralled by the adverts and discuss them much more (he spent a good five minutes dissecting the problems with the M&S Christmas ad the other day – it was another week before I managed to catch it).

But generally, I feel as if I’m missing out on the social currency that ads give you; something to chat about, complain about, laugh at. Now I watch most of my ads on YouTube or Brand Republic, where they are flagged up to me as worthwhile.

I really miss the ads. Well, most of them any way – I could do without seeing We Buy Any Car’s ad ever again – the jingle has stuck, its work is done and to be honest, once was more than enough.

The other thing about having a PVR is that you don’t flick channels. You plan what you’re going to watch (something you know you’re going to enjoy – some of the 30 Rock box set, say) and you stick to it. You don’t flick around and alight on a random BBC4 documentary (The Secret Life of the Airport was one of the last things I found this way, and it was just fantastic.)

We record ‘event’ TV and watch it a week later, with the result that even the great stuff, like Mad Men and the Inbetweeners is on hold, leading you to have to avoid radio and magazine spoilers and work colleagues raving about Joan and Peggy’s spat in the lift until you can finally spare an hour to catch up. Groundbreaking series and wonderful niche programming (god bless BBC4) are missed and never found again.

And that’s what I’m doing with the PVR. I’m not ‘ahead of the curve’ at all. I’m constantly playing catch up, taunted by TV shows from the past and missing out on the power of the random – flicking around and discovering a new favourite.