Net Heads See DVR Gains


New research on digital video recorders (DVRs) counters the assumption that time-shifted programming will reduce TV viewing, according to research executives from the broadcast TV networks, though the findings aren't as sanguine for the commercials in those shows.

“What we are seeing is that DVRs are going to increase viewership to major network programming and commercial exposure in those programs,” says David Poltrack, executive VP, research and planning, CBS Television & UPN.

Poltrack and Alan Wurtzel, president of research and media development for NBC Universal, presented findings from several new studies.

They included Nielsen Media Research’s upcoming DVR ratings service, which launches Dec. 26, and Arbitron’s test of its Portable People Meter in Houston – in an effort to show what they called “mainstream” DVR usage now that the technology is reaching 10% penetration. 

“DVRs have been hotly discussed for years now,” says Wurtzel, “but the attention and discussion has been uninformed until now.”

Half of all DVR owners, they said, have had the technology for less than six months and are still integrating the features into their lives.

Those who do have DVRs, the executives noted, watch 12% more TV. The bulk of the viewing – 60% – is played back the same day and 80% of programs are watched the same day or the next day.

Prime time broadcast programs are the most popular recorded fare. According to CBS research, 71% of live viewing was network programming and 73% of DVRed shows were network as well.

The new Nielsen data, which tracks programming recorded and played back up to seven days later, culls information from 7 markets (Denver, Austin, Houston, Tampa, Orlando, Raleigh and Charlotte) where the average DVR penetration is 7%.

Early data shows that network programming gained 4% more total audience when the DVR usage was factored in. While the actual numbers are small – Desperate Housewives picked up an additional 0.8 ratings with DVR viewing – as more Americans buy DVRs, Poltrack noted, the additional rating points from time-shifted viewing could become significant to overall ratings.

But the $64 million question, how many of those people stick around for commercials, remains to be answered, though early research indicates two-thirds of DVR owners skip commercials.

The research executives noted that the amount of TV viewed on DVRs is still such a narrow slice of viewing that the negative impact on commercials is still minimal.

In the future, Wurtzel said, advertisers will need to develop commercials that can hold a viewers’ attention. “People don’t like bad or repetitive commercials,” he said.

The upcoming Nielsen data will allow networks and advertisers to track minute-by-minute viewing and better assess commercial exposure.