|Show’s Title, in Symbols, Defies DVRs |
By BRIAN STELTER Published: September 22, 2010
CBS knew that when it ordered a sitcom with a vulgar word in the title, it would get attention. The network also knew there would be some hand-wringing about the coarseness of popular culture.
Here’s what the network did not know: that the title would trip up some digital video recorders. It turns out that the search tools on some DVRs cannot find the new show, “$#*! My Dad Says,” because the symbols cannot be read. (Maybe some DVR developers could not foresee a world where TV shows would have a dollar sign in the titles.) Before the show’s premiere on Thursday, CBS released a viewers’ guide of sorts on Wednesday to help people program their DVRs accordingly.
The case illustrates how some TV networks have embraced the DVR, though tepidly. Despite the commercial-skipping abilities of the recording devices, highly rated shows become even more so when DVR playback is included in the Nielsen ratings that help determine prices for advertising time. About 38 percent of households now have DVRs, though the vast majority of programming is still watched in real-time.
“Obviously, our first choice is that you always watch everything on CBS live; however, we also consider the DVR our friend,” CBS wrote in its viewers’ guide on Wednesday, which was shared on CBS.com, on Twitter and elsewhere online.
CBS recommended that viewers set “$#*! My Dad Says” to record through the program guide rather than the search tool. Most DVR users already record shows through the program guide, said David Poltrack, the chief research officer for CBS, “but we don’t want to make it difficult for any of our consumers.”
It’s a leave-no-viewer-behind strategy.
The sitcom, which was inspired by a 30-year-old’s profane Twitter feed about his father’s blunt observations, stars William Shatner as the father. Mr. Poltrack observed that on some DVR systems, like the one operated by Time Warner Cable in Manhattan, the symbols in the title are actually an advantage, because the show appears at the top of an alphabetical list of programs.
Though networks say they consider the DVR a friend, time-shifting still causes headaches. Because the media tend to concentrate on overnight ratings for shows, even though millions of people now delay their viewing, shows can appear to be less popular than they actually are.
Partly for that reason, CBS this week started to include projections of the DVR playback of its shows in its statements on overnight ratings. For instance, it projected that Tuesday’s “NCIS” would gain 2.5 million viewers after a week of DVR viewing, a gain of 10 percent.
With the projections, “we can see, directionally, whether a show is growing or declining,” said Mr. Poltrack.