WHO WE ARE: Australia's the land of thieves and hoarders
The Timeshifters' fave: Private Practice.
WE ARE the army of the night, but not necessarily the same night. We want everything and we want it … when convenient. We are nine million strong, and growing.
The commercial TV networks hate us because they say we “steal” their programs without doing our consumerist duty of watching the ads. But they don’t mind boasting about us when it suits them to say a show that looks like a flop is actually a hit.
We are the timeshifters. And some of us, maybe most of us, are also cultural hoarders.
The ratings measurement agency OzTAM estimates that 44 per cent of Australian households now have the ability to record programs for later viewing (fast-forwarding through the commercials). OzTAM has added technology to the people-meter boxes attached to TV sets in a sample of 3,100 capital city homes so that it can now measure what people record and watch within seven days of the original broadcast.
That gives us a new insight into the way Australians manipulate their favourite medium. A nation of multitaskers, in the habit of getting everything it wants, has comfortably added timeshifting to its array of skills.
When The Voice started on Channel Nine a couple of weeks ago, observers thought it had wiped Australia’s favourite drama, Revenge, off the ratings map. The mainland capitals audience for Revenge dropped from nearly 2 million to just over 1 million.
The Good Wife
But when OzTAM’s timeshifting figures appeared a week later, we realised the Revenge fans were not fickle at all – they had simply postponed their pleasure in order to be among the early adopters of The Voice. On that night, 294,000 people in the mainland capitals set their recorders to capture Revenge, while they were watching The Voice.
It joined an elite group of record breakers that included an episode of Homeland in February (309,000 timshifters), an episode of Angry Boys in May last year (280,000) and an episode of Underbelly Razor in February (280,000).
In a normal week, our bonus viewing looks more like this …
Looks like a flop, actually a hit: Alcatraz
The most recorded regular shows: 1 Private Practice (audience boosted 65 per cent by timeshifts); 2 The Amazing Race (audience boosted 54 per cent); 3 Alcatraz (boosted 49 per cent); 4 The Good Wife (up 34 per cent); 5 Desperate Housewives (up 33 per cent).
Those titles might lead you to suspect that most timeshifters are women, and you’d be right. Of the 294,000 people who set their recorders to capture Revenge against The Voice, 230,000 were women. Could this be because Dad insists on controlling the remote on the night? Mum programs the recorder, but she learned long ago it’s good to let Dad think he’s in charge of something.
But there’s a group beyond the timeshifters that OzTAM does not measure – people who record shows and watch them more than seven days later. They are engaged in what we might call cultural hoarding.
I polled the participants in the online forum attached to this column (which you can join -- see below), asking them to confess what they were hoarding. Within 48 hours I had a vast list. These four responses were typical:
From Chipmuncher: "I have all of the Alcatraz episodes to date saved for later viewing. Until recently I also had all of Homeland, as well as the last 2 seasons of Fringe, but I'm all caught up on those now."
From Rupert’s mum: "I've got all episodes of the following: Revenge, The Good Wife, Homeland, Downton Abbey, 30 Rock, Modern Family, Boardwalk Empire, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (can't think why), Soap, Damages and Community. I save them up and watch 10-15 episodes at a time, then faint.
From em: ”I have Foxtel IQ. Currently have Gossip Girl, Chuck, Person of Interest, Touch, numerous eps of ER, Being Human season 4, assorted movies. The other day I was over at my daughter's and noticed she had every ep of the last season of Dr Who on her IQ, plus a heap of The West Wing!”
From Jen13: “I’m a hoarder, and I record via a Foxtel IQ, a Panasonic VCR/DVD duo, and a Sony DVD recorder. If I really like something (eg Dr Who, Spooks, Game Of Thrones, Damages ...) I keep them after I've watched them. I buy DVD sets too, and have been known to download.”
Those women are the future. We’re about to be a nation of hoarders.
To discuss your hoarding habits, go to Comments
You have just read the Who We Are column, by David Dale. It appears in printed form every Sunday in The Sun-Herald, and also as a blog on this website, where it welcomes your comments. David Dale teaches communications at UTS, Sydney. He is the author of The Little Book of Australia -- A snapshot of who we are (Allen and Unwin). For daily updates on Australian attitudes, bookmark The Tribal Mind.