ABC Announces "Must Flee TV"

Published on February 25, 2008
by John Paczkowski


I’m not so sure that the whole issue really is one of commercial avoidance. It really is a matter of convenience–so you don’t miss your favorite show. And quite frankly, we’re just training a new generation of viewers to skip commercials because they can. I’m not sure that the driving reason to get a DVR in the first place is just to skip commercials. I don’t fundamentally believe that. People can understand in order to have convenience and on-demand [options], that you can’t skip commercials.”

ABC President of Advertising Sales Mike Shaw, July 2006

Leave it to ABC to devise a service that offers all the convenience of video-on-demand with all the annoyance and vapidity of broadcast TV in one joyless package. This morning the network and its affiliates announced fast-forward-disabled video on demand, which prevents viewers from bypassing commercials.

Designed to combat the now nearly ubiquitous DVR, the service offers viewers the chance to watch ABC shows like “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” for free, at any time they choose, as long as they’re willing to suffer through the advertisements that accompany them. And just to make sure that they do, participating affiliates will disable their video-on-demand services’ fast-forwarding capability. “This does counter the DVR,” Anne Sweeney, the president of the Disney-ABC television group (DIS), told the New York Times. “You don’t need TiVo if you have fast-forward-disabled video on demand. It gives you the same opportunity to catch up to your favorite shows.”

And your not-so-favorite commercials. Which would seem to make it about as uncompelling a proposition as … well, as over-the-air broadcast TV. But ABC, which has been testing the service with Cox Communications in Orange County, Calif., insists it’s got an audience. The company says 93% of users it surveyed said they would be willing to give up the fast-forwarding option and watch the commercials if they were given VOD programming for free.

So perhaps the 30-second TV ad has a few more years left in it still. But only a few. According to a study by the Association of National Advertisers and Forrester Research, 62% of marketers believe TV advertising has become less effective in the past few years. And 87% said they plan to increase their online ad spending this year, while many said they will cut their TV ad buys substantially when DVR penetration tops 50%.

Return to: ABC Announces "Must Flee TV"