With ratings come responsibility

I'm an old-fashioned guy. I remember the days when seeing that "can't miss" program meant actually getting home on time, plopping yourself on the couch,...

I'm an old-fashioned guy. I remember the days when seeing that "can't miss" program meant actually getting home on time, plopping yourself on the couch, and actually tuning in - on time.

I'm cool with TiVo, DVR, or any other slick acronym representing any product that lets you watch shows when you want. That said, I'm not a big TiVo/DVR user. I still like watching shows when the TV listings tell you to watch them. (OK. I'm a dinosuar.)

Well, on Wednesday night, as I joined seemingly every second person on the planet in watching the American Idol finale, I was happy to be a relic.

Don't know if you noticed or not, but the show ran well past its 8-10 time slot. Jordin Sparks was crowned the newest "Idol" at a few minutes past 10pm. I saw it. Many others surely saw it. But many others surely did not - at least not right away. Why? Because, no doubt, millions of folks programmed their TiVos, DVRs, whatever to record the show from precisely 8-10pm.

This kind of overrun happens with awards shows all the time, but in its first five seasons, "Idol" has gone to great lengths to avoid this. And when it has happened in the past, it was intended. Earlier this season, at least once, Idol publicized the fact that a Tuesday night program would run from 8-9:07pm. Common belief held that it did so to cut into that same night's epsiode of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars - it's strongest rival.

Fox has a ratings goldmine on its hands here - and it knows that. And they put on a very entertaining finale to an otherwise ho-hum (by its lofty standards) season. But the network ought to be a bit more considerate of its audience, which comprises mostly the kinds of people who would use TiVo or a DVR.

As a network, you want folks to watch a show - especially a live one - on time. But you benefit more if people who simply can't watch the show from 8-10 get to see it in its entirety later on. This is not a huge offense, but when you're the highest-rated show on TV, missteps, no matter how minor, are spotlighted.

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