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CBS Beams Viewers Alerts on Overruns

Jun 4, 2007  •  Post A Comment

CBS is deploying state-of-the-art TV technology to answer a question that dogs its viewers on any Sundays when a football game or a golf match delays the start of prime time.
CBS will launch a digital viewer alert system this fall that will tell all who have signed up for the service, via e-mail or text message, just how late Sunday’s prime-time shows will start on nights that have been delayed by sports or other live programming.
That will let them know when to be in front of their sets or how to adjust their recording times for programs that will be affected by the delay.
For a particularly lucky million or more viewers who have TiVo’s broadband service, no manual adjustment will be necessary, because TiVo will zap an instantly adjusted schedule to its recorders so that those viewers’ devices capture the programs—and only the programs—they want. (No such adjustment is possible with TiVo’s other service, which updates recorders nightly via phone.)
To expand the instant reprogramming strategy will require separate arrangements with each cable carrier in each market, CBS Marketing Group President George Schweitzer told TelevisionWeek at the CBS affiliates convention in Las Vegas.
“Everyone’s got their own system. There’s not one signal that could be sent out everywhere,” he said. “It’s complicated, but it’s not impossible, and we’re working on that.”
The viewer-alert initiative was inspired by a night last season when a football run-over delayed “The Amazing Race” by about a half-hour.
“I was on the message boards that night—I go on TV.com and Meevee and all these places—and [the chatter] was really vehement. The people were really pissed, because they had set their VCRs and DVRs,” Mr. Schweitzer said. “I had been talking to our engineers and our digital people for a while about program alerts.
“We put crawls on. We’ve got that down pat and we know how to do that, but that’s only speaking to the people who are watching.”
There will be a publicity blitz about how to sign up for the viewer alert service before the start of the football season.
“We’re going to tell you there’s a delay, so if you’re at the dinner table and you’re not planning to watch TV until 8 o’clock, when you want to see ‘Viva Laughlin,’ you get the e-mail saying it’s going to be 15 minutes delayed, please reset your VCR,” Mr. Schweitzer said. “That’s a good thing. We’re helping you because you want to be helped. I think people will be happy with that.”

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