"I'm sorry, you'll have to miss your show. We have to go to your uncle's birthday party." How many broadcast TV shows were missed because of special occasions, work schedules or time conflicts? Sure, there were always reruns, but they lacked the thrill of first-run episodes. Viewing habits were set free with the introduction of the VCR in the 1970s. By the middle of the next decade, one third of all homes in the U.S. had VCR [source: Gendel]. Americans made the most of it by watching even more broadcast television; only 25 percent of recordings were of cable channels. Subscription to HBO decreased, but broadcast TV viewership was up by 500,000 households.
TiVo, a digital video recorder, entered the scene in 1999 [source: TiVo]. Overall, DVRs increased the number of people watching scheduled shows. They just didn't necessarily see them on the scheduled date. Viewers watch shows at their convenience, but they also have the challenge of avoiding spoilers. Advertising is impacted, too. If the cost of commercials is based on the number and demographics of viewers, how should DVR recordings be counted? When is watching "later" too late?