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How TV Remotes Changed Broadcasting Forever

January 5, 2015


Tv remote control replacements

We’ve come such a long way since the days of the Lazy Bones and Flashmatic that we often take for granted just how much impact the first TV remote controls had on the public. The first TV remote controls did much more than cause people to shield their remotes from sunlight and instill chronic fear over tripping over a wire attached to the TV. They actually affected the way we broadcast TV.

When TV remote controls infiltrated households, it marked the first time that audiences didn’t have to sit through a show just because they were too lazy to stand up, walk over to the TV set and change the channel. It also allowed couch potatoes to avoid commercials: they could channel surf during them, or mute the sound.

This new practice was enough to change the way commercials were aired. Before the remote, commercials were only aired between programs (much like public access channels like PBS structure their ads).

Networks eventually became concerned that having commercials in the transition from one show to another would drive viewers away from their channel. This caused them to change permanently to having commercials during programs, to keep viewers from hopping to another channel once a show was over.

Television remote controls also led to the creation of split screen credits, which have stuck around to this day. Splitscreen credits became an industry standard when a research team from NBC discovered that 25% of viewers changed the channel instead of watching as the credits rolled. This led NBC to invent the NBC 2000, which compressed the credits to a third of the screen while the last few minutes of the program aired.

Of course, when remotes went wireless, it caused a completely different problem that persists to this day: lost remotes. All remotes have an unfortunate tendency to fall in the couch, or end up in a different room, or slip into the trash can. Fortunately, this opened up a market for replacement remote controls that’s still going strong. Modern TV watchers can usually purchase replacement remotes just like the remotes they lost.

Maybe in another 50 years, we’ll have figured out a way to stop losing our remotes. It never hurts to dream big.

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