Yahoo! Ruins the Party for PVR Users

By Davis Freeberg

Yahoo! News has spoiled yet another television event for PVR users. This morning they posted a link on their Yahoo! homepage that said R—— denies R——, wins Apprentice. For those of you who’ve yet to watch the show, I won’t ruin it for you, but knowing the winner of the Apprentice will immedietely suck out a lot of joy and suspense from the season finale.

While this particular instance was highlighted by a reader on Digg, spoilers on the main Yahoo! page have been a consistent problem for Yahoo! readers. In 2002, I initated the Davis Freeberg boycott of the Yahoo! homepage for this very reason. After repeatably emailing Yahoo! regarding their posting the World cup scores on their main search page, I decided that the only way to prevent Yahoo! from spoiling sports and other shows was to never go to their homepage — hence, no more Yahoo! search for me. Many world cup games were being broadcast at 2am and while I did watch some of the games live, the vast majority of the games were watched the following day on my TiVo. If you really want to ruin a soccer game, try telling a fan that the score will be 1-0. It takes a tremendous amount of drama out of what would normally be a very exciting defensive match.

I don’t really have an issue with Yahoo! News reporting sport’s scores — that’s their job after all. My problem is that I don’t want to see this spoiler type of information when I go to their homepage to search. Why not just leave this kind of information on it’s respective news page where people can elect to read about it, instead of having these results thrust upon them.

About a year and a half ago, I decided to lift my boycott because I really enjoy reading the Yahoo! news, but after they revealed the winner of the World Series of Poker months before it was broadcast on ESPN, I knew that I could not go back until the company publically addressed the issue. With nearly 10% of the US population now using PVRs, Yahoo! should seriously reconsider this terrible policy of forcing results onto people who use their services. Would it be so hard to have the headline read finalists face off on the Aprentice – Winner Announced. I don’t mind them writing about television, but give your users and opportunity to avoid the link if they haven’t seen the program yet.

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7 Comments

  1. Elinesca says:

    I don’t think these kinds of shows are meant to be watched later, Thomas… it’s a strange world we live in – we’ve gotten into this notion that everything is possible to rewind and relive, but what we really need to do is to live more in the now.

    Just my penny, there. Anyway, you have to agree with me that the outcome was a tragedy!

  2. Elinesca says:

    (sorry Davis, didn’t see that this was your post..:-)

  3. I think sites like Yahoo! have to report on this news, regardless of whether someone has chosen to watch the episode at a later date. Popular reality shows are known for doing cross-promotions on its networks such as having the lastest loser featured on the morning shows.

    It doesn’t make much sense for properties in any medium to hold back reporting on timely news while other outlets pull in the users hungry for more timely info.

  4. Eli,

    While the studios may feel that TV was meant to be watched live, I think that I would have to disagree with you. It’s the studios and portals that must get used to this notion of being able to rewind, relive and postpone our television. While admitedly some events are going to be too big to stay out of the mainstream press (i.e. the Superbowl) my issue with Yahoo! involves events that either haven’t even been televised (WSOP) or events that are smaller like the season finale of Survivor or the Apprentice.

    I agree that we must learn to live in the now, but TV isn’t really life, it’s a distraction that many people enjoy. The ability to put off TV in lieu of other life events that may conflict with a 9pm start time is important to every PVR user. If the portals refuse to modify their behavior, they will soon find that others will stop using their services. It’s bad enough that I have to avoid the office gossip if I miss The Apprentice, but having to avoid sites that I would otherwise enjoy shouldn’t be an issue for me or the other 8% of the country that chooses to time shift their programs.

  5. Shawn Oster says:

    Half the problem is that entertainment is considered news. I doesn’t matter who The Apprentice is and it doesn’t matter who got voted off of what island, yet too many people actually think it does and so it becomes news.

    Another problem is perception and syncronization. If no one is watching things at a known time then just when do you scoop news events? You also want to be entertained so your perception is that you shouldn’t know about it yet others want to know who won the WSOP as soon as possible for betting or for placement reasons. It’s also your perception that the Apprentice is smaller yet someone else my disagree.

    I doubt very much that the portals will be bothered losing 5% of that 8% of time-shifters. Until you can get TV episodes in an out-of-band fashion (iTunesesque) and more of the country is time-shifting, then portals really won’t be bothered much.

    It annoys me when I learn something before I wanted to and even I wouldn’t bother with the small numbers or the handful of people boycotting.

  6. If your main reason for visiting Yahoo is to search, you might try http://search.yahoo.com instead. It loads faster and is far less likely to spoil your TV shows.

    Or you can set Yahoo as your default engine in your browser (or use the Yahoo! Toolbar).

  7. justju! says:

    My two-cent’s worth.

    Replying specifically the example used of ESPN delaying broadcast of the World Series of Poker, I think the onus is not on Yahoo! to change its policy towards news and in this case, results embargo. If it is an event that happened months ago, why should there be a five-month ban on Yahoo!’s part to to publish the news?

    I think that it is imperative for broadcasters, especially those who specialise in sports, to be aware that the currency of recorded content that they put on air. Else, it will lead to the problem rightly mentioned by the author that it really does take the joy out of watching a programme that is driven by a scoreline. I do believe that the programming guys at ESPN know what they are doing but at the same time don’t think that Yahoo! should change what they are doing. After all, they are reporting the news of an event as it simply is.

    Let me use another hypothetical analogy. Imagine ESPN delaying broadcast of the World Cup Finals. How long can one expect Yahoo! or any other news wire to embargo publication of the results? It will be all over the back page of the newspapers by the following morning anyway! For that matter, in this day and age of abundant and accessible information makes it virtually impossible for these kinds of news to stay un-“known” for long.

    Delayed broadcast are meant for those who have missed it Live but would still want to watch it anyway, but it would be foolhardy to assume that a delayed broadcast will be watched by a viewer who does not already know the result. Another reason for delayed broadcast is to use it as ‘filler’ programming. That means that for whatever their reason, they chose not to air it Live.