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DVR Industry: The ‘D’ Stands For `Dense’

Oct 6, 2003  •  Post A Comment

The digital video recorder can pause live TV, fast-forward through commercials and even record more than 300 hours of programming. However, there’s one thing it can’t do: Put some sense into the heads of the executives who are selling the damn thing.
The DVR has been called the next big thing. TiVo, the category’s brand leader, has generated more buzz than a case of Red Bull. However, after nearly five years and scores of millions spent on advertising and marketing, DVR services are in just 2.5 million homes. Despite widespread critical praise of the technology, the product has been a failure.
consumers’ comfort level
Why? I am asked that question almost every day by both DVR owners and TV industry executives. They can’t seem to understand why a product that brings so much convenience and entertainment to your life is not doing better.
Well, the answer is simple.
The VCR, which DVR services seek to replace, is in more than 90 percent of U.S. homes. (Talk about your home field advantage.)
Consumers may not believe the VCR is perfect; the 12:00 blinking light on the receiver’s front panel has become an American cliche. However, most viewers are comfortable with the VCR because it’s cheap to buy and relatively simple to use. Pop in a tape, hit record or play and you’re done. So why spend $200 to $500 on a new TV recording device when you already have one that works? Plus, the DVR requires a monthly subscription fee and cannot play back those stacks of videotapes sitting around most U.S. living rooms.
oblivious to the obvious
But the DVR industry seems oblivious to the obvious. Whether it’s TiVo, EchoStar or the cable TV operators, they have done a miserable job of explaining why consumers should dump their VCRs for DVRs. In fact, print and broadcast advertisements for DVRs do not even mention the VCR! They instead focus on features that most viewers don’t understand, such as pausing live TV or TiVo’s “Season Pass.”
In a classic case of myopic marketing, company officials assume that most people already know what a DVR is-and why it’s better than what they have. But trust me, guys: They don’t. Millions of people may have heard of TiVo, but they don’t quite know what it does or why you should buy a DVR.
take aim at vcr’s weaknesses
The DVR, which is truly a technological breakthrough, will one day replace the VCR. However, that day may not come for years unless DVR companies wake up and smell the disappointing subscriber numbers. Future marketing campaigns should be aimed directly at the weaknesses of the real enemy-the VCR. Instead of gushing over the Instant Replay button, TV spots should highlight why the DVR is better than the VCR. And they should clearly explain why the average person’s life will be better if he gets one.
For instance, one spot could emphasize how the DVR would eliminate household clutter by removing those stacks of unwatched videotapes sitting on coffee tables. Another spot could exploit that blinking 12:00 by highlighting the one-touch recording feature.
Of course, this is easier said than done. For the most part, DVR companies are run by technologists rather than marketing people. However, they need to hit the pause button and take a fresh look at why their product is still sitting on the shelf.
Phillip Swann is president and publisher of TVPredictions.com. He can be reached at Swann@TVPredictions.com.