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Thursday, September 21, 2006
Fox tries to thwart DVR fast-forwarding

Will test 30-second commercial with static image to reach viewers

Fox is running a 30-second television spot with just one static image in an effort to reach viewers who fast forward through ads using digital video recorders like TiVos.

U.K. advertisements for Fox's new drama, "Brotherhood," which premieres in Britain in October, simply shows an image of Providence, R.I., where the show is set, and the program's logo.

Viewers fast-forwarding through the ad would see the image for a few seconds; those watching it normally would hear dialogue from the show in the background.

Jon Hollett, a Fox International spokesman, said the company was experimenting with ways to get its messages to DVR users who routinely breeze through ads without antagonizing real-time viewers by broadcasting a flat, silent image for thirty seconds.

"This is something that is going to have to be addressed one way or the other," he said. "Making sure that you can get to your viewers when they're fast forwarding ... is of crucial importance."

Television executives fear the new technology could make ad-supported free programming obsolete. In the United States, DVR users could dodge as much as $8 billion of the $74 billion in television ads shown this year, according to Jupiter Research, a technology consulting company.

Some media companies have attempted to fight the trend. One DVR provider, ReplayTV, was driven into bankruptcy in 2003 by a lawsuit over its automatic ad-skipping feature.

Advertisers also have begun experimenting. Earlier this year, KFC Corp. promised coupons at its restaurants to viewers who could identify a secret code only visible when its commercials were replayed in slow motion.

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