Nielsen Enters the DVR Age

Nielsen Media Research will ring in the New Year with some new viewing material.

In measuring the week of Dec. 26-Jan. 1, Nielsen for the first time will report national ratings reflecting data from digital video recorders.

Gathered from 60 homes with DVRs, the data will detail three streams: traditional live viewing; live viewing plus one-day playback (calculated through 3 a.m., when Nielsen meters drop the data to the company’s Florida processing center); and live viewing plus playback within the succeeding seven days.


Nielsen executives, speaking on a recent conference call with reporters, didn’t expect the new data would have a major impact on ratings in the first report, scheduled to be released Jan. 4, or during the early months of analysis of this enhanced information.

Reflective of current DVR-penetration estimates of 7%, Nielsen will add 100 or so DVR homes per month to its sample base through July, when it expects to gauge national ratings on some 10,000 homes.

Some research groups, though, projected that DVR penetration could reach one-quarter of U.S. TV households in 2007. To reflect that level of household ownership — which could bring fears from the advertising-agency community about users fast-forwarding through commercials to a boil — Nielsen would have to continue to significantly increase its base of DVR homes.

In the upcoming sample, the DVR group will comprise households that either have units from TiVo Inc. or gain such functionality via cable or satellite services.

Asked why it’s incorporating DVRs into the mix with such a small sample group at this time, Pat McDonough, senior vice president of planning, policy and analysis at Nielsen, said clients want to “get a first look at what’s happening. We expect clients to use the data as a beginning of their understanding” of DVR usage.

Vice president of communications Anne Elliott said Nielsen was prepared to roll out the viewing-plus-seven-day data in September.

But in deference to clients asking how long it would take to include the third stream — the live-plus-one-day playback — the measurement company decided to wait until it could accommodate that request before commencing the rollout.

Video-on-demand ratings are also expected to be factored into the equation sometime this spring, according to Nielsen executives.


Homes with DVR capabilities tend to be heavy TV watchers. Research conducted by CBS indicated that broadcast will benefit more from DVR-fueled measurements, as ratings for top series increase by an average of 4%.

Cable’s top shows encore more frequently as part of the medium’s traditional approach to scheduling, so networks are not expected to reap similar gains, according to the CBS research.