Commercials are the price for On Demand

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Post-Gazette TV writer Rob Owen answers reader questions online every Friday in Tuned In Journal blog at Here’s a selection of recent queries:

Q: A question about not being able to fast-forward through on-demand programming: What is your take on spending (what I consider to be) an excessive amount of money for cable, and yet you still have to sit captive to the now required commercials that you once were able to zip through? Shouldn't the price of cable cover whatever revenue may be lost in advertising? -- Jeff, 51, Forward

Rob: Very little of what you pay to your cable operator makes its way to a broadcast network, and what money does make it there does not make up for advertising dollars lost due to lower ratings caused by a multiplicity of channels and viewers watching via DVR, On Demand or online.

For years, the pact that broadcast channels had with viewers was this: You watch our commercials, you don’t have to pay for our shows. That dynamic still exists with free, over-the-air broadcast channels. On Demand programming is a new technology, and I’m not sure it’s reasonable to expect not to have to pay for some of it by watching ads – or wait a few days to watch it without commercials, which is what some networks allow.

Also, an easy work-around is this: Just DVR the show and fast-forward through ads; that’s what I do. I rarely use on-demand.

Q: My question deals with network scheduling. There are nights when I can watch only one of my favorite programs per time slot and must use On Demand to catch up on the others. For example, at one point “The Black List,” “Castle” and “Intelligence” were all on Monday at 10. Other nights nothing appeals to me because I do not watch reality shows or singing and dance competitions. Why do networks insist on going head to head with strong programs? I would watch all the dramas if they were spaced conveniently. "Those Who Kill" might have been a decent program if it had time to grow, but I was only able to watch it once on demand. -- Sharyn, 66, Pittsburgh

Rob: Networks care only about taking care of their own, and they program nightly lineups that make the most strategic sense for their individual network. Any moves they make are focused on this. They simply do not care if their programming choices inconvenience viewers.

Now, you could argue that pitting similar-themed shows against one another is self-harm, but I suspect that in most lineup competitions, if you were able to dig into network research, you’d find the viewer profiles for any three or four shows airing at the same time are pretty different.

Q: In watching episode two of “Those Who Kill” [ on LMN], I saw and heard something trivial that always irritates me on TV shows: why do the shows say or indicate "State of Pennsylvania" rather than "Commonwealth of Pennsylvania"? Do they do this on purpose? -- Stan, Altoona

Rob: I suspect most of the time a show’s writers are simply unaware that technically “State of Pennsylvania” is incorrect, although Pennsylvania is considered one of the United States so it’s an easy mistake to make. And a Google search shows that even describes itself as “the official website of the state of Pennsylvania” beneath a larger “Commonwealth of Pennsylvania” heading.

Q: I love the show “Love It or List It” on HGTV, but I am a bit puzzled as to why they never tell where they are located. They never mention any city or state. Any ideas why they don't make it clear where they are located? -- Keith, 54, Middlesex

Rob: Here’s the response from an HGTV publicist: “’Love It or List It,’ featuring co-hosts Hilary Farr and David Visentin, currently shoots in Canada, with plans to shoot in the U.S. HGTV viewers love that we keep the focus on the homeowner stories in this series because the great design ideas from Hilary and the savvy real estate counsel from David are applicable to every homeowner – no matter where they live.”

Ask TV questions at under TV Q&A (scroll down to find link on right side of the page).

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