Nielsen Reports DVR Playback Adding To TV Viewing Levels

Playback from Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) is increasing the amount of time people spend watching television, according to new data from The Nielsen Company. In comparing total television usage (Live viewing plus DVR playback) for persons 18-49 in November, 2007 to total television usage in November, 2005 (before Nielsen measured DVR homes and penetration was very low) Nielsen found that viewing had increased slightly throughout the day, and was three percent higher at 9:00 p.m. and five percent higher between 11:00 p.m. and midnight.

This has implications for primetime viewing levels in the future because as the number of DVR households in the U.S. population grows, DVR prime time viewing levels will likely rise as well.

Nielsen also reported that the traditional prime time period between 8 PM – 11PM was expanding because people are watching the shows they recorded later the same evening. In fact, by creating their own “personal television schedules,” viewers are pushing prime time as far back as midnight. Nielsen found that DVR playback peaks at 9 to 10 pm with eleven percent of viewers age 18-49 in DVR homes playing back recorded programming on their DVRs, while between 11:00 p.m. and midnight seven percent of people are playing programming back.

The information was presented today at Nielsen’s Client Meeting on Audience Measurement in Las Vegas, Nevada. The event is attended by more than 600 television, online, mobile, advertiser and agency clients from around the world, as well as by senior Nielsen management, including CEO David Calhoun.

“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. “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.”

Providing new insights into time-shifted audiences, Nielsen identified three distinct groups of DVR users based on how much they time-shift:

  • Heavy Shifters are primarily middle income women, ages 18-49, who record and later watch nearly 26 hours of television– or about half of their TV viewing – a week. Males, 18-34, are least likely to fall into this group.
  • Medium Shifters watch somewhat more television than the average person; and about a third of their viewing is time-shifted.
  • Light Shifters, who represent nearly 70% of all persons in DVR households, watch less television than the average viewer. With incomes that exceed $100,000 and the most prone to own a high definition TV set, they spend only about 10% of their television time with time-shifted programming, watching shows they would otherwise have missed.

Nielsen also reported that time-shifting is not evenly distributed by forms of programs. As would be expected, most viewers prefer to watch news, sports and movies live. On the other hand, general dramas, such as House, Grey’s Anatomy and Heroes, are most often recorded and viewed later, and account for one-third of all time-shifted content.

Among other types of programming that is heavily time-shifted are talk shows like Oprah; soap operas like The Young and Restless; and reality television shows such as Survivor, The Biggest Loser and Dancing With the Stars.