Commercial Zapping Doesn’t Matter

Few devices get advertisers’ nerves rattling as much as DVRs, and with good reason. One-fourth of all television households now have one and, with a push of a button, can zip through commercials.

To be sure, a high percentage of DVR users are fast-forwarding through ads and, according to findings from Deloitte Services’ first “State of the Media Democracy,” commercial zipping isn’t restricted to the young, as sometimes thought.

Still, Deloitte says, the main reasons for using DVRs have less to do with commercial avoidance than with watching recorded programs whenever you want, a concept that’s been around ever since that now dusty VCRs first hit store shelves.

“They are using [DVRs] to conform television to their schedule and to consume more television than they could without it,” says Ed Moran, director of product innovation in the technology, media and telecommunications group at Deloitte.

The top reason for using a DVR, cited by 66% of respondents, is the freedom to watch TV on their own schedule. The second biggest draw, at 65%, is recording shows, perhaps to be watched over again.

“My takeaway, looking at the use of DVRs and which media and advertising executives aren’t taking to heart yet, is that sure, commercial skipping is a part of why people like DVRs, this but it’s really about being able to consume the programming people want to consume,” says Moran.

Still, the unnerving trend toward commercial skipping isn’t exactly a no-show in the survey. The third best feature about DVRs, cited by 57% of respondents, is skipping commercials. The Deloitte study was conducted online by research firm Harrison Group earlier this year with 2,200 people.

That’s comparable to findings coming out of TiVo’s Stop-Watch service, which tracks second-by-second viewing on 20,000 of its DVRs.

“What we see over and over is an expression of control,” says Tracey Scheppach, senior VP and director of video innovations at Starcom USA. “But the numbers for commercial skipping are fairly high. In time-shifted viewing, 60% of all ads are skipped. That’s a lot. But we haven’t seen that being the main reason people get a DVR.”

Deloitte found that DVR users of all ages use the devices in similar ways. Deloitte measured media usage in its study among four generations: millennials (people 13-24), generation X (25-41), baby boomers (42-60) and matures (61-75).

DVR users watch commercials 17% of the time, a figure consistent from millennials (17%) through matures (18%).

The other 80% or so of the time, DVR users are doing a variety of things while commercials are on. The most common is fast-forwarding through commercials at 33%, ranging from 30% of the time for millennials to 40% for Xers, 29% for boomers and 26% for matures.

The next most common activities include flipping channels, at 18%. Another 14% of the time, DVR users leave the room while 13% of the time they stay in the room but do something else.

Meanwhile, each generation has similar media-usage habits for other devices.

For example, of all respondents, 24% say they visit more than 25 Web sites in a typical week. Xers ranked highest on this measure at 27% while matures were lowest at 20%.

Deloitte also found that every generation is multitasking while watching TV.

On average, respondents say they participate in 4.4 activities while watching TV. Millennials do the most multitasking with an average 5.6 activities, followed by Xers at 4.4, boomers at 4 and matures at 3.6 activities.

Moran explains that Xers and boomers are multitasking because their time is squeezed by kids and careers. Millennials are multitasking for a different reason.

“They have an embarrassment of riches in the platforms they’re accessing and the media devices they have,” says Moran. “Because they have all these choices, they dabble in all of them.”