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American Idol + FOX + TiVo = Rage

FURIOUS is the only way to express how my wife felt at the end of last night's "American Idol" - and it had nothing to do with who won and who lost.

She sat down to watch the show on our DirecTV TiVo DVR last night - not when the show started at 8 pm but about an hour or so later, after our evening routine of dinner, dishes and getting the kids ready for bed. She sat through two hours of AI, waiting like millions of others, for the results. But at the 2 hour mark in the recording, during the final commercial break just before Ryan Seacrest was to announce the winner, the recording stopped.

She missed the end. Thanks to the Internet, she was able to eventually find out who won. And Good Morning America replayed that final AI moment this morning. But it just wasn't the same.

This isn't the first time something like this has happened to us. But who's to blame? DirecTV? TiVo? The networks? Maybe we should be extending our recording times but a couple of minutes on the TiVo, like I do for sporting events. Why would American Idol - or any reality show, sitcom or police drama for that matter - need to go into "overtime?" Why not start and end on-time? Since clocks are set by DirecTV, Comcast and the others who deliver programming via set-top boxes, this shouldn't be hard to figure out. It's not like the VCR days when we had to set the clock manually. Technology is smarter than that today.

Based on our own viewing habits, it appears that ABC is most reliable at following the clock. We've yet to miss a beginning or end of "Ugly Betty" or "Grey's Anatomy". But I think my wife summed it up best when she said, "If the show is scheduled to run from 8-10, then start at 8 and end at 10. What's so hard about that? Starting at 8:02 and ending at 10:02 is unacceptable."

In a DVR age, is it too much to ask that the traditional broadcast networks follow the time schedule? Especially at a time when Internet-based video programming is moving from the sidelines to the playing field, trying to lure viewers (and advertisers) to their platforms?

By Sam Diaz  |  May 24, 2007; 2:03 PM ET  | Category:  Sam Diaz
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We were using our Cablevision DVR to record the show, knowing that my wife would watch the show tonight (Thursday). I was listening to AI on my bedroom radio (with a TV tuner) and realized that AI was going to go long. At 9:59, I ran downstairs and added 30 minutes of recording time to the DVR. Can't wait for technology to get really smart and adapt to real-time schedule changes.

Posted by: Good husband | May 24, 2007 3:11 PM

It's not to the stations or advertisers' advantage to make sure that your TiVo records the entire show. Using TiVo, you can skip the commercials.

If you want to make sure you get the entire show, set it to record for a few extra minutes instead of complaining about it. Take some responsibility for your own need of recording the entire show.

Posted by: Lillian | May 24, 2007 3:13 PM

The networks are to blame for not adhering to their schedule. There's really nobody else to point the finger at. "real-time" extensions for DVRs etc are not trivial to standardize, implement, etc. It'll be a *long* time before that happens. The problem is that most people still do watch programs 'live' so they network doesn't care about the DVR viewers. And, DVR viewers don't watch commercials anyways, so who cares about them?

Posted by: 20007 | May 24, 2007 3:33 PM

The same thing happened to my wife and I during the finale of the latest Survivor. I had set the DVR to record the finale but not the reunion show after. We were only 15 minutes behind and so jumped to the reunion show in progress. But we missed the live reading of the ballots.

Posted by: Falls Church | May 24, 2007 4:29 PM

A. It was a Live event. So yes, treat it like a sporting event.

B. Is one Comcast Minute = one Direct TV Minute = 1 Network Minute = 1 Tivo/Box Minute? Likely, no. Sure they all may try to synch up at one point or another but never all together.

C. The networks play with their schedules to offset by one or two minutes here and there. Yes, it's to screw with DVR's, and to interrupt the competition's viewership.

Posted by: Kim | May 24, 2007 6:59 PM

Its not Tivo. Its Fox. Because we didn't get it on Time Warner DVR either. Its awful. I was outraged last night and am so glad to see others are as mad...although hate that we all missed it. Fortunately I am on the east coast and got to warn all my family and friends on the west coast.

Posted by: Fran | May 24, 2007 8:06 PM

I'm guessing Kim has it right. Though -- did the recording start when the show started, or was it early?

Posted by: Bill Reith | May 24, 2007 8:15 PM

We've watched AI since season one and I can't tell you how pissed off we were when the last few minutes (including the winner announcement) was cut off. Personally, they have to KNOW how long the show is going to run. (They sure timed Gwen Stefani's song pretty well since she was live in concert.) Either cut some freaking commercials out (ha ha) or lose some of the filler. Or, I don't know maybe announce the winner earlier in the show and have the rest of it be a celebration for the winner. I personally could have cared less about the Golden Idols. They complain about weirdos and bad singers showing up for the auditions, and yet give out awards for said bad behavior at the end of the season. (Pavlov anyone?) If you record multiple shows with your TiVo then doing the +1 minute deal can really affect which shows get recorded properly. It's bad enough that we often miss the very end of the Simpsons or various other FOX shows. So far, FOX has been the worst for running beyond their time limit and I bet they do it on purpose. I was soooooo mad after sitting through all of the filler and then to be CHEATED out of the announcement!

Posted by: Misty | May 24, 2007 8:17 PM

All of you people, get a life! Your worlds are apparently now controlled by the idiot box. Do you realize how ridiculous you all sound, making your lives complicated by TV shows?!! Sheesh.

Posted by: George Perez | May 24, 2007 9:09 PM

I've seen this done on other channels also, and I've concluded that it's done on purpose so that you will continue to watch their channel instead of switching at the top of the hour. They also will sometimes begin one show immediately after another and run the commercials three minutes into the show. Again, an attempt to keep you hooked on their channel.

Posted by: Brandy | May 24, 2007 9:31 PM

This situatuion has driven me insane for 2 years. Especially on Sunday nights during football season. The Amazing Race would always start late because of football games on CBS. So if I didn't remember to add 30 minutes to the DVR, I would miss half of the show. And then since that TV was still recording TAR, I'd have to use another TV to get all of Desperate Housewives at 9. (which also always runs 2-3 minutes late if you want to watch scenes from next week. . .) I don't get why you can't just set the DVR to record the show from whenever it happens to start (like 8:14 sometimes) to whenever it happens to end (like 10:05 on AI last night)I've heard that comcast digital cable has solved this problem, so we might be switching to that soon!

Posted by: LBH | May 24, 2007 10:01 PM

As far as I know, there's no signal sent to your DVR that says "X show is starting now" and "X show is now over", so your DVR can record it. It goes by the schedule that's sent out ahead of time.

If a football game pushes everything back by 24.3 minutes, then the schedule will be hosed by 24.3 minutes.

You people are giving too much credit to that DVR box technology, it not really that sophisticated.

Posted by: Kim | May 25, 2007 9:37 AM

Idol ran long on purpose! This way the diehard fans will go to the website and pay to download and watch the last 9 minute of the show. Even if you pad your TIVO by a few miutes, you still would have missed the announcement. Last year they made the announcement within the alloted time. Gwen Stefani's horrible performance could have been skipped. Any good planner would know that there were too many performances packed into a 2 hour show!

Posted by: tallahassee lassie | May 25, 2007 10:54 AM

I agree with another user. The networks don't care about DVR users because they manipulate the programming by avoiding commercials.

This is not anything new. Years ago Pioneer had a VCR that would skip recording commercial based on db frequency and it worked quite well. However, the studios pulled there muscle and got it yanked from the devices that had it.

Certain stations like TBS still start programs five mintues after everyone else. NBC regularly schedules shows to be extended and it doesn't show in the tv guide that way.

So what to do about all this?

A very simple answer. Start adding -15+15 onto your favorite shows that you've had issues with before.

If worse comes to worse you can always bittorrent that show from a user who recorded it live, removed the commercials for you and provide it a compact size.

Case closed!

Posted by: N0T@cracker/hacker | May 25, 2007 11:53 AM

If it actually enrages you that you missed the last two minutes of what is nothing more than glorified Karaoke, perhaps you need to re-examine your priorities.

Posted by: Santo | May 25, 2007 2:59 PM

Kim said: "You people are giving too much credit to that DVR box technology, it not really that sophisticated."

No, we're not. What we are saying is the networks should abide by the schedules they publish. If the published schedule had said that the finale would run until 10:05 then the DVR service providers could have updated the program guides that were downloaded to their devices, and the recordings would have been compelte.

And, no AI is NOT like a spoting event: the producers know exactly how long each song/production number is, so there is no excuse for it running long, even with its being a live telecast.

Posted by: Ged | May 25, 2007 5:06 PM

Santo said: "If it actually enrages you that you missed the last two minutes of what is nothing more than glorified Karaoke, perhaps you need to re-examine your priorities."

And we won't even consider the priorities of someone who takes the time to post on a topic they have no interest in...

Posted by: Ged | May 25, 2007 5:10 PM

Our BrightHouse-supplied DVR has been suffering the same slight "schedule adjustments" for about a month now. Particularly with my wife's viewing of Idol, but it's also meant the end/next week's previews of House have gone missing. Oddly, the same thing happened on a couple of CBS shows (Numb3rs, Jericho) on CW's Smallville (once) and (and I blame NBC for this one) more than once for the ever-changing The Office. Are these Networks conspiring to eliminate commercial-zapping DVR use? At least, my wife was able to beat the system and programmed the news following the AI finale to be recorded!

Posted by: Finn | May 25, 2007 6:35 PM

Our old TiVo was programmed so that if a show went longer than expected, it would still record so you whouldn't miss the ending. Our new HD DVR has been nothing but a pain. We've had so many shows that we couldn't finish because it got deleted!!! Or worse when there is a power outage or any electrical problems and the TV is off, TiVo used to record still wherease DVR is a sitting duck. I reall hope this gets fixed because I miss my VCR if they don't!

Posted by: newjeans | May 25, 2007 7:29 PM

i've dropped most of the stuff NBC puts on, as they do this constantly. i don't think the idea is as much that they figure you'll be hooked into the next program (on DVR that wouldn't matter anyway), but it is to screw up DVR recording on another network for the next timeslot. at one point they said they acknowledged it and said they would stop doing this, but they picked it right back up again.

Posted by: guildenstern | May 25, 2007 7:34 PM

What Lillian said: TiVo offers the option to run over on events like sports and other programs that are not scripted or recorded and edited to fit a block. Don't blame the broadcasters/carriers if the solution is in your control: why would I want to read a tech writer who doesn't understand how to use the technology he writes about?

Posted by: paul | May 26, 2007 12:18 AM

american idol sucks.....

Posted by: kousik | May 26, 2007 4:04 AM

People, please don't be so generous with your dim intellect, posting that we shouldn't complain and should just record a few minutes longer. Lillian, ponder this one: how would you start your 10pm recording on time if you're giving your 8-10 recording an extra 15 minutes at the end?

Posted by: The anti-Lillian | May 26, 2007 4:20 PM


Yeah, AI has it all timed out, but it's still a live show and can fall victim to any trappings that can happen to a live show. With AI it's likely waiting for all the teenage girls to stop shrieking. But it's a live show. Deal with it.

And it's up to the various DVR providers to have a quick update. They usually only go and get a schedule at most once a day (in the wee hours of the AM, like 3AM). It's not instantaneous, and it would be a huge drag on the systems if they pushed out a new schedule every hour.

Once again, it's just a toaster. It's not all that bright a gadget, don't give it more credit than that despite how nifty it is.

newjeans, if power's out, how is a TiVo any different than a cable company provided DVR, is there a little slot to put in a hunk of coal in it? Any DVR should work regardless of the state of your TV.

Posted by: Kim | May 28, 2007 8:00 PM

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