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The Unwatched Masses

You meant to watch Ken Burns’ The Dust Bowl on PBS on your DVR, right? So did I -- but I never got around to it.

A whopping 41% of recorded content on Americans’ DVR is never watched, according to Motorola Mobility’s fourth Media Engagement Barometer report (opens in new tab).

DVRs have empowered TV viewers as never before, but obviously our eyes are bigger than our stomachs. A key insight from the study is that people love the notion of being able to watch anything they want at any time… even if they don’t follow through.

Indeed, 72% of DVR users surveyed are “hoarders” who record an entire series to “collect the box-set,” the Motorola study found. Other obvious top reasons for DVR usage: 77% record programming because there’s something else airing at the same time (81% in the U.S.), and 68% record to skip ads (74% in the States).

But billions of hours on our DVRs inevitably get zapped into the ether because, dude, we are running out of storage space.

About 55% of U.S. respondents have deleted or moved content because of DVR storage limitations, and 81% said that “caused frustration,” according to the survey. Also: Women are more often frustrated than men by needing to remove recordings they have stored (26% versus 23% of men).

Is DVR rage a problem or an opportunity? Network DVR can deliver virtually unlimited space (and potentially disable fast-forwarding of ads -- it's a thought.) And DirecTV, for one, is trying to capitalize on it in its campaign pushing the Genie DVR, which has a terabyte of space for up to 200 HD hours and can record up to five shows at once. The spots show a tapped-out cable DVR, spawning a bitch-fest between two people about "cable is worse than..."

It’s worth pointing out, however, that most TV viewing time (73%) is still live, especially for news. Worldwide, 29% of all weekly TV content consumed is on a DVR and in the U.S. it’s slightly higher at 34%.

The study surveyed 9,500 consumers in 17 countries in December 2012; Motorola contracted Vanson Bourne to conduct the research.

By the way, of the 29.5 hours Americans say they spend watching TV and movies each week, they claim 2.5 hours of that is documentaries. (Does Here Comes Honey Boo Boo count as a documentary?)

So back to The Dust Bowl: PBS is reairing it in two parts April 23 and 30. I’ll be setting my DVR. Really.

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