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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Television viewing habits and ya' gotta love the DVR

Television is a great evil, and probably a great time waster. One of my favorite bumper stickers reads - "Kill your Television". I guess I've never calculated all of the hours that I spend per week watching (or listening whilst doing other things) and just through writing this blog entry, I find reason to do a little arithmatic on this very subject.

I define active viewing as paying attention to at least 50% of the content shown or heard. Anyone with children understands that rarely can you focus 75% on any one activity with young ones about. My active television habits are as follows:

Weekday daily morning news and weather over coffee (15-25 mins) - usually WFSB Channel 3; If something interesting is going on nationally, I might tune to Fox and Friends, or if I need a mental boost. During baseball season, 30 minute NESN Sportsdesk trumps all. This is mandatory viewing for Sox fans. If the Sox win, I watch almost all of it, if they lose I may only watch the recap and then switch channels.

Weekday evening news (30 mins nightly) - again usually WFSB, if beyond 6:30 pm, I usually switch it to NBC or other just because I find Katie Couric and CBS sort of stale

Weeknight viewing (varies, but no less than 4 hours per week total, and no more than 10 hours per week max - and I tend not to watch repeats, so if the new season hasn't begun, I'm not watching unless the show was particularly good. And I think that most of what's on television is crap. Pure, unadulterated crap.

The network/cable shows I watch religiously are: Most Haunted, Hell's Kitchen, Jericho, House, Fox Soccer Phone In (note the new network season hasn't kicked in so I'm not watching most of these except Most Haunted, and Fox Soccer Phone In). So to fill the gaps, I may watch bits and pieces through channel surfing; this doesn't really change my viewing total: usually on Fox News Channel, History Channel, Biography Channel, Travel Channel, and Fox Soccer Channel.

On weeknights, we also watch Fox News at 10 - but usually about half of it (15 minutes). The news crew on there can put anyone to sleep.

Sports is a different animal and it depends on the season. During baseball season, Red Sox baseball usually stays on from pre-game to however long I can stay awake (thus the need to watch NESN sports desk in the am). Now realize that I may actively watch 35 mins of this, while listening to most of it as I do other things. But the Sox play on weeknights, on average of 3-4 nights. I may be around for only half of that.

Weekends: If the Sox aren't on, my focus is turned to the English Premier League. Since Saturday and Sunday are "chore days" and "family days" which include going to the store, mowing the lawn, laundry, etc., its very hard for me to watch a 90-minute game, plus stoppage time and the break. If I miss a lot of the games, I'll watch the Sunday show "Premier League Review Show" which shows highlights from the 10 weekend games (there are 20 EPL teams in the EPL).

Of course, then there are the other sports - UConn Huskies Basketball (Men's games), and NCAA special weeks as we grow closer to the tournament. And during the NCAA tournament - these games trump all sports just because of the excitement of the games.

Since we moved out of taxville, I decided that it was high time to get ourselves a DVR box so I could have even more flexibility with my television viewing. For the longest time, I thought having a DVR would be a waste of money (cable prices are already outrageous) since it was hardly a necessity, and that it would promote more timewasting (after all if you missed your show, you probably were doing something more important than sitting in front of the tv anyway). But I was also aggravated by the fact that if you missed something you really wanted to watch, it wouldn't be repeated for a long time to come, or perhaps never repeated. And if it was a series, missing an episode of a show is a bummer. My biggest beef with networks is that they don't replay shows late at night on the same night. I think this is a classic mistake.

But instead of being a waste of time, I've found it's added some value to my quality of life. Of course, you have to program it, but I've taken to setting it up to record shows I may or may not be around for, just in case plans change. It's not like I really altered my schedule to be home to watch certain programming, but now I just don't even give it any thought at all.

So to start with - the biggest source of aggravation for me was missing a majority of English Premier League games over the weekend, or the occassional game played during the week - which may be live but would also be played based on British schedules (Greenwich Mean Time), and now I could care less - I just queue up the DVR and go about my business. And it someone is faking injury on the pitch, or the game is lagging, I can easily fast forward through the baloney.

And since I'm usually exhausted by 10 pm on a Friday night, I now record Most Haunted so I can crash early after a long week. Then there is all the other programming that I might take interest in that might be worth viewing in my spare time - shows on travel, history or the occassional movie.

As for the price, I would agree that the cable company tends to have us by the balls since the cost is outrageous, and there are few other options around. It's not a monopoly, but with so few choices, it might as well be. The pluses and minuses of each, and the relative cost by comparison put all the options at about or nearly the same - after all the sign up freebies are over. And I think that the cable company would really have to do something ominously hateful for my wife to allow us to put a huge DEATH STAR looking radar dish on the side of our house.

So now life is good. I'm typing, drinking coffee, and watching yesterday's Derby v Tottenham game while everyone else is sleeping in. Ha!

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