Poll: How Do You Watch TV Shows?

TV nirvana is closer than you think. DISH, a US pay-TV provider, launched a new feature called Auto Hop which automatically skips over commercials. That’s right, commercials disappear. No need to fast-forward through commercials, realize you went too far, then rewind to catch the beginning of the scene. You can watch your recorded shows in a fraction of the time.

“Viewers love to skip commercials,” explained Vivek Khemka, vice president of DISH Product Management. “With the Auto Hop capability of the Hopper, watching your favorite shows commercial-free is easier than ever before. It’s a revolutionary development that no other company offers and it’s something that sets Hopper above the competition.”

There are some restrictions to Auto Hop. You need to have DISH as your TV provider as well as their Hopper DVR. The feature only works on network shows (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC) broadcast in primetime in HD. Auto Hop can only be used to watch shows the day after they air (after 1am).

As exciting as the Auto Hop feature may be, it has to fit with the way you watch TV shows, that is, if you watch TV. If you only watch live TV shows, you will still have to suffer through commercials. If you watch recorded shows on your DVR that don’t fit within the Auto Hop requirements, your fast-forward button will still get a workout. If you watch TV shows on the Internet or through an app, you’re probably hoping that Auto Hop will be developed for you soon. If you watch purchased TV shows from Amazon or iTunes or watch using Netflix or Hulu+, Auto Hop won’t matter to you.

How do you watch TV shows? Do you watch live programs or do you prefer recorded shows? Do you use Netflix or Hulu+ to watch TV shows? Do you buy TV shows from Amazon or iTunes? Vote in The Wonder of Tech poll and let us know! (Vote for as many ways as you watch.)


The ability to skip make commercials disappear automagically isn’t new. SONICblue offered this feature over 10 years ago on its ReplayTV DVR’s. With its Commercial Advance feature, ReplayTV made commercials disappear on any show viewed through the DVR, even shows watched live-delayed.

But alas, networks and studios file a lawsuit against SONICblue for copyright infringement of the advanced features of the ReplayTV, including Commercial Advance and Send Show, the ability to share recorded shows over the Internet with other ReplayTV owners. The lawsuit ended when SONICblue filed for bankruptcy and eliminated the Commercial Advance and Send Show features from future models of ReplayTV.

Owning several ReplayTV DVR’s, I can tell you that watching TV shows without commercials is sublime. Having savored the experience of Commercial Advance, I am tempted to switch to DISH immediately to take advantage of Auto Hop.

I’m not hopping over to DISH quite yet though. Auto Hop is merely few days old and possible legal battles have not yet begun. Whether legal action will be taken remains to be seen. But if Auto Hop can avoid legal quagmires, this feature may be the next great advance for watching TV.

Do you watch commercial TV? Would you like to retire your fast-forward button? Do you want the ability to watch shows without commercials? Do you think Auto Hop can avoid the courtroom? Let us know in the Comments section below!
Update (5/24/12): Today broadcast TV networks Fox, NBC and CBS sued DISH over the Auto Hop commercial-free feature of its DVR’s.

* Watching TV image by Elena Bobrovitzkaya

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  1. Anneliz Hannan says


    It will be interesting to see the overall results of the poll. It is so easy to use multiple avenues to watch TV today. I could not just choose one. I wanted to check them all off. It is great to have choice and options especially in a family situation where everyone has their favorite TV shows!

    • says

      Hi Anneliz, Great point. You’re right, it’s great to have so many options for watching TV. It used to be if you missed watching an episode of your favorite TV show when it aired, you were out of luck. Now you have lots of options to watch in other ways. We are truly fortunate to have all of these choices. :-bd
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  2. says

    Hi Carolyn
    The way we watch TV has really changed over the last 10 years and I don’t think it is going to stop here. With high speed Internet and always connect Smartphones only the sky is the limit. Believe it or not when I was a kid we only had one single national TV station owned by the government.
    Thomas recently published this awesome post..Soundhound App Tells You What Song is Playing on the RadioMy Profile

    • says

      Hi Thomas, Wow, you have really come a long way. We had six TV stations as a child and my kids are amazed at how deprived I was. I will definitely tell them about your one government-owned station.

      Excellent point. I wonder what tech is ahead of us for watching TV shows. Five years from now we may be watching shows in ways we haven’t even dreamed of yet. Perhaps I’ll conduct this poll again then!
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..Color Your World with Tech!My Profile

      • says

        I remember back in 1988 when we got our first commercial TV station. The whole family was waiting for movie to finish, because we wanted to see those TV ads that were all new to us..! We don’t do that anymore ;-)
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  3. Kathy says

    Other than the news, I almost never watch live tv anymore. If I enjoy a show, that makes it DVR-worthy, so I set the DVR and watch it when I have time and will not have distractions.
    One question about Auto Hop and similar devices. If it is possible to skip over the commercials altogether, who pays for television show production? If advertisers are paying to sponsor programs, and providers are searching for ways that we don’t have to even glimpse ads via fast-forward, won’t the advertisers stop paying? I know product placement is growing, but I cannot imagine that this could end up being the only source of revenue. Couldn’t Auto Hop be the death knell of television programming? I’d rather sit through a couple of commercials than lose quality, scripted programming.

    • says

      Hi Kathy, What a great point! I agree, commercials are a valuable source of revenue for the networks, yet how many of us refuse to use the fast forward button because we want to honor the investment that the advertisers have made in these shows?

      As someone whose favorite scripted TV show (All My Children) was just cancelled, I do understand that TV networks are being squeezed. But tech advances will continue and as they do, businesses must find way to adapt.

      Interestingly, ReplayTV has a code you can enter if you want to watch only the commercials and not the show itself. People used that code quite a bit after Super Bowl games when viewers often find the commercials to be more entertaining than the actual game.
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  4. says

    Hi Carolyn,

    I know that we are from the same city (Philly) but I’m not sure if you have Verizon FiOS in your area or not. If you can get it, go for it! FiOS has changed my life in so many ways. First off I would never be able to get around the web and be so social online if it wasn’t for the speed of FiOS.
    I took your poll but actually I do a combination that you didn’t list here. I watch recorded programs each and every day but I also watch live TV everyday in addition I watch some shows “On Demand” about once a week. As far as skipping commercials – I try my best to skip them but for some reason I always need to back up or move forward just a couple of seconds and when that happens I just give up and let them play. lol

    I’m not a movie person (although I used to be) and I never go out of my way to watch movies live, on demand or otherwise. Every time they call to offer me 6 months of free HBO I tell them I’m not interested and I’d much rather have another DVR box instead but they don’t fall for it….

    One more thing is that I don’t have a smart phone (probably mentioned that in a previous comment here) and I don’t want one. Otherwise I would spend every waking moment online and I already spend way too much time online now.

    On another note – are you in the market for a new blog theme?

    Thanks for the post Carolyn I liked getting all of that off my chest. :)
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    • says

      Hi Ileane, Yes, I live outside of Philly. I have FIOS for Internet and love it. My connection speeds are very fast. I have DirecTV for my TV provider because my husband likes their NFL Ticket that lets him watch almost all of the NFL football games in the regular season. I’m happy with DirecTV, but I like the Auto Hop feature from DISH. Interestingly, DirecTV ended up buying the remnants of ReplayTV, so if DISH stays out of trouble, maybe DirecTV will follow with a feature similar to Auto Hop.

      I like having a smartphone so I can check the Internet when I’m on the go. That way when I arrive back home I have less to handle.

      So you’re not a big fan of my classic theme here, Ileane? I can’t blame you, I feel the same way. The Wonder of Tech team is working hard to bring a new fabulous look to this blog, very soon!
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  5. says

    Interesting poll Carolyn!

    Excited to see the results of the poll. :)

    We don’t have all the options mentioned above at our end, so I can’t really say much about them. But out of the ones we do have, I like the direct TV where we have various channels and you can pick and choose the ones you really like.

    None of us are really all that crazy about TV, and hardly watch it for 1-2 hours per day. I hardly watch TV nowadays and it may be just 1-2 favorite serials or some special movie over the weekend that works best for me.

    Thanks for sharing and hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day :)
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    • says

      Hi Harleena, Thank you, my Mother’s Day was lovely. I hope yours was too.

      Having only the TV channels you want to watch would be great. But I’m afraid between my husband and me we would probably pick most of the channels anyway. The Internet has been a big distraction from TV, I think which may be a good or bad thing. Perhaps that’s a topic for a future poll! :-)
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  6. says

    Well, I’m a DVR woman myself. I never watch anything live and a good bit of the time I don’t watch it that day or the day after. It just depends on how soon I get off the computer and if I have time to watch something.

    I also live in a condo and we have a contract with Comcast so no dish networks are allowed here. I wouldn’t have one anyway because of the reception issues they normally have.

    I don’t mind fast forwarding through the commercials. It’s not like it takes that much more time. But it would be cool to have an option to record it without commercials. I have no doubt that will show up one day too!

    Thanks Carolyn,

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  7. says

    Back in India, we did not even have the option of DVR, and all we had to do was to wait anxiously for the show to start and deal with all the commercials in between. When I first saw the DVR here in the US, i was thrilled and have been hooked onto it ever since.

    Now this new feature adds more ease to how we want to watch a TV show. I am sure this will be a huge hit, and will eventually be available as a feature for all the cable networks as well.

    • says

      Hi Praveen, Wow, I imagine going from only watching TV shows live, to watching with DVR’s must have been quite a wonderful leap of tech! In the US, we had the interim tech of VCR’s where you had video cassette tape on which you could record a show. With DVR’s I love how you can watch one show while another one is recording. So often on VCR’s, your recording was ruined by someone who flipped channels in the middle of your recorded show.

      I don’t know whether Auto Hop will be available on all cable channels in the future, though that would be great. For now, I would be happy with the Auto Hop feature surviving without legal challenges. :-)
      Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently published this awesome post..Poll: How Do You Watch TV Shows?My Profile

  8. says

    Well Carolyn I still watch TV the old fashioned way flipping around till I find something interesting. And the same goes when there are commercials on, I just change channel, but they are smart and sometimes have commercials running at the same time so it forces you to watch commercials!!

    I do find that I have started to watch reruns of old shows on the internet more now because of avaliability and fast internet. It’s nice to be able to see old shows you remember growing up, but somehow MacGyver seemed more awesome back then :) Oh and when I was a little kid we still had a black and white TV!!

    Take care!
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    • says

      Hi JD, Yes, it used to be that color TV was the latest and greatest tech! How far we have come to have so many choice for watching TV shows.

      You’re not the only one who is a channel flipper. That’s one of the more popular choices in the poll so far. It seems that more and more time is devoted to commercials and less to shows, which may be why flipping around channels is becoming a less effective way of avoiding commercials.
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  9. says

    I would love to skip commercials, even though I watch them through the eyes of a marketer. So I actually learn a lot from them. But, I don’t enjoy it much other than to learn what’s happening in the world of commercials :)

    I usually watch recorded shows. I have a PVR (that’s what they are called in Norway). I set it to record the TV-shows I enjoy, and I watch them when I have the time and feel like watching them. And I am also using NetFlix via Apple TV and that works great.
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    • says

      Hi Jens, You’re right, some commercials can be informative and entertaining. When I watched TV using my ReplayTV and someone started a sentence, “Did you see the commecial for…” I would always have to say “no.” I felt as if I was missing out on a part of culture.

      But so few commercials seem to be worth watching these days and the ratio of program time to commercial time seems to be smaller now. When you watch a commercial-free TV show on Netflix, you see where an hour show can turn into a 40 minute show.

      You’re right, watching recorded shows on a DVR/PVR helps you not only avoid commercials, but also make sure that you don’t miss your favorite show! :-bd
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  10. Pubudu says

    Now I used to watch TV shows online most of the time or else i download the whole episode and watch them all within a day or two.

  11. says

    Hi Carolyn,

    I use time shift. The DVR records all the time and I just fast forward through commercials. My TV in the bedroom will record to a flash drive and then when I want to fast forward I can. You have to pause to allow it to record before you can fats forward and on my TV in the bedroom, you can’t change channels while time shift is working. I only really watch TV in bed now, it seems to help me wind down at the end of the day. I was editing photos in bed last night! I have posted 2 blogs today on each site, both Neodigital Art and I posted an extra art blog on Sunday too. That one was very popular and got a dozen ‘likes’.

    We have longer days here now until the end of June but I still have problems getting out early enough to take photos. The constant rain has been a problem too!
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    • says

      Hi Mike, Oops, I didn’t include watching from a flash drive in my poll. But that’s why I always include an “Other” category in my polls. It’s difficult to anticipate all of the answers!

      I saw some of your beautiful photos on Pinterest today. I will stop by your blogs shortly to check them out. We’re having thunderstorms here today and I hear they’re also in London. Not the best photography weather!
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  12. Nosgoth1979 says

    I see from the poll results thus far that I’m in the majority: those whom watch TV from their DVR. With that in mind, I have to say I absolutely love this new feature! I was one of a handful of Dish employees lucky enough to be chosen to beta-test the Hopper, so I’ve been using it for a while now, and this thing just keeps getting better with each software update. This Auto Hop feature is my favorite addition yet. I love how it gives me the choice to skip the commercials on the PrimeTime Anytime channels the day after the shows air. I mean, I did that anyway, but now it’s more convenient and I’m not wearing out my Skip Forward button.

    • says

      Hi Nosgoth, Welcome to The Wonder of Tech! It’s great to hear from someone who has used the Auto Hop feature. That’s a fantastic perk you get as a DISH employee. You’re probably very spoiled now for watching TV without Auto Hop.

      I wish your company the best of luck with this enticing feature.
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  13. says

    TV schedules have become fairly irrelevant to me. I have Tivo and use that to record shows, so I can watch them at my convenience. Commercials aren’t a problem so I can fast-forward through them. I think more and more people are watching TV this way.

  14. Ruth Zive says

    Interesting that the poll results are really all over the map. As for me, I don’t watch much TV, but when I do, I generally flip to other programs during the commercials. I really like Storage Wars :-).

    • says

      Hi Ruth, Yes, these poll results are interesting as it looks like people watch TV in a variety of ways. It used to be that everyone would sit in front of the TV together at a scheduled time to watch a show. But these days many programs are watched days, weeks, months or years later.

      There are still some people who watch live TV with the commercials, but according to this poll, not many.
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  15. Cathy Taughinbaugh | Treatment Talk says

    Hi Carolyn,

    I’m curious how DISH can beat the courtroom with Auto Hop. I much prefer watching through the DVR rather than with the commercials. I do have DISH. One thing I would think about about before switching is if you like TiVo on Direct TV or whatever you have, it is a much better system than what DISH offers. It is cumbersome to tape shows on DISH unless you tape as you are watching and set up your timer that way.

    • says

      Hi Cathy, I’m curious, do you have the Hopper DVR? That is the only DISH DVR that has Auto Hop and maybe that has easier scheduling.

      I can’t switch from DirecTV because my husband loves the NFL Season Ticket. I think I have a better chance of the NFL switching to DISH than I have of my husband switching away from DirecTV.

      That being said, I like DirecTV, though I wish they would allow HBO GO for the Roku, but that is a very minor annoyance.
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  16. Eleni Poulakou says

    Hello Carolyn,

    Long time no comment! :D
    I don’t watch TV anymore, except for an exceptional movie late at night sometimes.

    I have a unique experience of having grown with minimal to none commercials during TV shows. Really!!! Commercials were shown only AFTER the end of the show, in-between shows — it was sublime! First baby steps of Greek TV…

    This is great technology — I wonder what advertized companies will do to compensate for leaked viewers.

    • says

      Hi Eleni, It’s always great to see you back here at The Wonder of Tech!

      Has the Internet replaced TV as your source for relaxing entertainment? I’m wondering if fewer people watch TV due to the Internet. Perhaps that’s a topic for a future poll!

      That would be very cool to have commercials at the end of TV shows and not in the middle of them. But I imagine that would make it much easier to avoid the ads.

      I agree, with advanced technology these days, it’s very easy to skip over commercials when watching TV. If I were an advertiser, I don’t know where I would spend my advertising dollars. TV has dropping ratings, print newspapers and magazines are losing readers, and even Facebook doesn’t seem to be a great venue for ads.
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  17. says

    I was never really a TV watcher before college – and when I left for it I didn’t take a TV along. That was about 11yrs ago and before the likes of Hulu etc. I never missed it and have never gone back. Things I need, like the weather, have always been available online, and now come directly to my smartphones home screen. I have too much learning media, work media, etc to take in for tv shows. And when I do find time away from the screen it’s usually with a book (sometimes for work, sometimes for play).
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    • says

      Hi Kim, It sounds as if you’ve never been a big fan of TV. You’re right, much of the information we found on TV, such as the news and the weather, is now more timely on the Internet. I learn much of the breaking news from Twitter, though that isn’t always reliable.

      But relaxing with a good book is a great alternative to TV!
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  18. Adam says

    This is amazing. I usually don’t get time to watch my favorite shows as most of them start in the evening when I’m traveling back home and the repeat telecasts are always late in the night when I’m fast asleep. This would be very helpful for me. I will record all of them and watch whenever I’m free. Thank you for the share.

  19. says

    This is absolutely great. Yes, I voted for “I watch tv shows on the internet”, that’s frankly because I don’t want watching shows with long tv commercials. I may consider this and I’ll be watching that poll of yours. Those commercials are very time consuming specially when I’m in a rush and I wanna see the last part of the show. Isn’t that annoying? Love this! Thanks!

  20. Zoe Alexander says

    Although I have to admit to watching barely any television due to my time being taken up launching my new business, when I do occasionally watch television, I must admit I do find the commercial breaks annoying. However, in the UK they are far less frequent than on US channels, so maybe we don’t find them such an issue!

    • says

      Hi Zoe, Welcome to The Wonder of Tech! Yes, you have fewer commercials in the UK than we do here in the US. That was one of the great differences I noticed when I moved to the UK. When I returned to the US two years ago, the amount of TV commercials seemed to have increased from when I had lived there before.

      Perhaps if there were fewer commercials here we wouldn’t make such an effort to avoid them.