Hendricks: DVRs Mean Fewer, Better Shows - Multichannel

Hendricks: DVRs Mean Fewer, Better Shows

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Atlanta -- The widening adoption of the digital-video recorder will mean that programmers will have to produce higher-quality shows if they want to get attention. But it may well mean fewer programs overall get produced, according to John Hendricks, founder and chairman of Discovery Communications Inc.

“Now with DVRs, the great network fare, as well as the great cable fare, is always available,” Hendricks said in Sunday's opening session at the National Show here. “Now, CSI, American Idol are just a push button away” at all times, he added.

The meaning: Programmers will have to produce better content to compete with the always-available popular and well-executed show.

“I think the great squeeze is going to come on marginal content,” Hendricks said. “The consumer is going to drive us toward high-quality content because they are in control now.”

DCI has built a business on what was once considered the driest of video forms -- the documentary. And now the push for higher quality will mean that a company with a “brand promise” like Discovery will have to produce fewer shows, rather than more, to get attention and deal with the economics of splintering media.

“You're going to concentrate your investment on [high-quality] shows,” he said. “Rather than doing 5,000 things per year, we might end up doing 1,000 things per year, but we'll do them much better, to break through. You just can't throw mediocre content out there.”
The effect may only be beginning. According to JupiterResearch, only 13% of consumers currently possess DVRs. Geraldine Laybourne, co-chair of the National Show and CEO of Oxygen, said one-half of TV households may well have DVRs four years from now.

The effect of the DVR on programmers will be significant, Hendricks said, adding, “We are ratcheting back on quantity and focusing an increasing amount of resources on quality.”