An Elegy for the Remote-Free

By on Aug 1, 2009 in Tinseltown |

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Anna Torv in "Fringe"

The following post was originally published on my old blog on April 1, 2009.

One of my favorite practices this season was Fox’s “remote-free TV” model, in which the networks aired fewer commercials during each episode of Fringe and Dollhouse—while charging advertisers more for the exclusivity—in an effort to keep viewers watching live, instead of recording the shows and fast-forwarding through the commercials. I liked it because, as a result, each episode’s running time was 49 or 50 minutes, instead of just 42 or 43 minutes.

Unfortunately, the experiment had its share of setbacks, according to this article at Airlock Alpha. Even though viewers paid more attention to the ads, many companies were reluctant to shell out the extra bucks. Also, each episode was more expensive to produce—and the extra minutes of each episode would be cut if the show was ever to air on another network.

I have to confess that I did nothing to help save the venture. I rarely watching anything live, unless it’s some sort of viewing get-together with friends. The reduced number of ads simply meant less time through which to fast-forward.

However, I propose remote-free TV could work (and should be implemented) for shows like Dancing with the Stars or American Idol for a number of reasons: a) advertisers would gladly pay more since DWTS and Idol are huge ratings successes, b) it would reduce the running time of the show, especially if the producers trimmed some of the padding to fit those shows into an hour-long time slot, and, assuming that happened, c) other shows could be added to the lineup to fill those now-vacant time slots.

Networks, please have faith in remote-free TV—if not for me and my selfish desires, then for the sake of packing more into your primetime hours.