Everything is big about the Super Bowl. Advertisements cost $2.6 million for 30 seconds. The average audience was estimated at 90.7 million viewers. And a few bad calls by the referees were magnified to epic proportions.
While network executives are clinging to the idea that they are still in charge of what you watch and when you watch it, they are losing their grip. Even the Super Bowl — the game to end all games, the Big Enchilada, the one where we all gather around our sets simultaneously in festive guacamole-eating splendor — has lost its appeal as a pre-programmed TV show.
Case in point: I was invited to two different Super Bowl parties and both of them were going to be shown later on TiVo or a DVR (digital video recorder). While the point of time-shifting is usually to skip the commercials, in this case, the idea was to be able to watch the good commercials (and controversial football plays) over and over. Plus, being on the West Coast, we’d rather enjoy the nice Sunday afternoon outside, and watch the game at night later.
Of course, there are downsides to TiVo’ing the game. No one in the group can find out what happened ahead of time and ruin the ending for the rest of us. Any mistake in the recording could also ruin it — if we record the wrong channel or don’t record long enough, for instance. Or maybe a lightning strike could erase our TiVo’s memory. (You think this way when you’re a big football fan and not as much a fan of technology…)
Then, as you start watching the opening ceremonies, the real parlor game begins. Some people shout out to skip over all the past Super Bowl MVPs being presented. Others want to skip the lengthy analysis by the announcers. Eventually it’s time to weed out the bad commercials that repeat. And if someone misses a good commercial or there’s talking over the beginning of a commercial, you can just replay it.
I haven’t seen hard numbers, but my guess is that Super Bowl XL was the most TiVo’ed and DVR’ed Super Bowl in history. And that’s a good thing, because we could enjoy the game — and the commercials — at our own pace, and watch what we want when we want to. Ironically, Tivo, which is known for its ability to skip commercials, actually touted which commercials were watched the most by TiVo viewers of the game.
Now comes confession time. Though I have watched many TiVo’ed shows and games at the homes of friends, I don’t have TiVo myself. That is about to change. But my choices in the DVR field were interesting. I could buy a TiVo machine for about $249 and a $150 rebate, with the service costing $12.95 per month or an additional lifetime subscription for $299. Figuring with the rebate, it would be $400 for the lieftime deal. But I could also order a comparable DVR through my cable company, RCN, for $14.95 installation and just $8 per month.
I decided to go for the RCN deal, because $8 per month just sounds so cheap. But am I getting a better deal? I’ll basically be paying about $100 per year for the box and service, which means it would take four years to match the upfront cost of the TiVo lifetime subscription. So TiVo is cheaper if I subscribe for more than four years, but more expensive if it’s less. With electronics devices always becoming obsolete in no time, I’d guess the cable option makes more sense. I can always upgrade to the latest device, as long as RCN keeps them coming.
What’s your experience with TiVo or DVRs, and which deal do you think is better? And how did you watch the Super Bowl this year (if you did indeed watch it)? Are we losing something culturally by time-shifting en masse?