B’cast: DVR Is Our Friend

New York -- Contrary to popular perception, digital-video recorders won't sound the death knell for traditional TV-viewing patterns and commercials.

Rather, the time-shifting technology leads to more watching, especially of network programming, and potentially more exposure for commercial messages.

So said broadcast-network research executives who gathered here Wednesday at NBC Universal headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Center to present findings from several studies.

"What we are seeing is that DVRs are going to increase viewership to major network programming and commercial exposure in those programs," said David Poltrack, executive vice president of research and planning at CBS and UPN.

In a presentation co-directed by Alan Wurtzel, president of research and media development for NBC U, the broadcast networks said households with DVRs watched 12% more TV than non-DVR homes -- 5.7 hours of TV viewing per day, versus 5.1.

Moreover, data culled from a Nielsen Media Research survey in seven markets -- Houston and Austin, Texas; Tampa and Orlando, Fla.; Denver; and Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C. -- showed that primetime programs upped their audience by an average of 4% in DVR homes.

As for DVR-viewing habits, 60% of those who record a program watch it within 24 hours, while 80% do it within the first two days of its original airing. Several surveys suggested that most of the DVR action falls to the top 20 network shows.

Additionally, the networks' own proprietary research indicated that 58% of DVR users pay attention to spots even while fast-forwarding through them, while 53% have rewound to watch the commercials they had mistakenly skipped.

Wurtzel noted that self reports -- in which respondents monitor either their DVR usage or remote-control habits -- tend to overstate the percentage of ads they skip.

"It's not that people don't like commercials -- they don't like bad commercials," he said.

Nielsen will begin incorporating a DVR component -- live viewing, plus the following seven days on a recorded basis -- within its ratings services Dec. 26.

Estimated DVR penetration by year-end is 8.8 million homes, or 8% of the U.S. population. By 2010, it is projected that 45.9 million homes will have such devices, or 39% of the population.