According to a report by Nielsen, playback from digital-video recorders is actually increasing the amount of time people spend watching television.
In comparing data covering total television usage among 18- to 49-year-olds from November 2005, when DVR penetration was low, to November 2007, Nielsen saw that “viewing had increased slightly throughout the day and was 3% higher at 9 p.m. and 5% higher between 11 p.m. and midnight.”
In other words, viewers were watching more programming, but on their own schedules. Specifically, the company found that that the traditional primetime-programming block was essentially expanded by DVR users, who would record shows and watch them later on in the evening.
“Consumers are increasingly making time-shifted viewing an important part of their overall television experience and are beginning to change traditional TV models,” said Patricia McDonough, senior vice president of insights analysis and policy at Nielsen Media Research, at the Nielsen client meeting in Las Vegas Thursday.
“DVR playback has added to TV usage, particularly during the most-watched hours of the day, as viewers take advantage of their ability to watch their favorite shows according to their own schedules,” she added.
Nielsen categorized DVR owners into three categories, based on how much they time shift programming.
Heavy shifters, mostly women aged 18-49, are heavy TV viewers and shift nearly one-half of their total viewing using DVRs.
Medium shifters watch slightly more TV than an average person and shift about one-third of their programs.
Light shifters -- which Nielsen classified as being 70% of DVR households -- watch less television than normal people and shift about 10% of their shows, mostly to catch episodes they may have missed.
Nielsen also revealed data about which shows were time-shifted and which were viewed live.
Not surprisingly, sporting events, news and movies were generally watched live, while serialized dramas were most often recorded for viewing later. Daytime talk shows and primetime reality programs were also shifted by users with some frequency, although not as often as their dramatic cousins.