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What Nielsen Discovered About DVR Playback

Nielsen will tell its national TV clients Thursday that there are significant differences in the way viewers use digital-video recorders, depending upon how soon after the original telecast they play back the recording and what genre of programming they are watching.

Specifically Nielsen will report that DVR playback that occurs closest to the original telecast retains more of the audience during commercials than DVR playback that occurs further out; and that certain genres, such as sports and news, have higher levels of live viewing, with DVR playback occurring closer to the original telecast than average.

In a separate presentation to clients, Nielsen will also report that about 20% of households have some form of personal video device, but that a mass platform for watching television on portable screens has not yet emerged.

The findings will be presented to Nielsen’s annual meeting of national clients at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Orlando, Fla. There are representatives from Nielsen's various national client groups -- broadcast, cable and Hispanic networks; syndicators; advertising agencies; and advertisers and marketers -- attending the two-day gathering.

Using its NPOWER software-analysis system, Nielsen was set to review the viewing behavior of sample households with DVRs from Jan. 1-21.

Among the highlights of this analysis, Nielsen found:

• During the first 27 hours after being recorded, primetime broadcast commercials gain 16% in ratings among viewers 18-49 in households with DVRs, with the total increase reaching 22% after seven days. This compares with a 35% increase in ratings for broadcast programs during the first 27 hours after the original telecast and a total increase of 47% after seven days.

• Among 18- to 34-year-old viewers in DVR households, virtually all sports and news DVR playback occurs within the same day, 85% of playback for daytime dramas occurs within the same day and about 75% of playback of sitcoms and primetime dramas occurs within the same day.

• Households with DVRs watch significantly less live television than households without DVRs, but most of that difference is made up after seven days of DVR playback.

• DVR viewing of primetime broadcast programming is a communal experience. 54% of people watching DVR playback are watching with someone else, versus 46% who are viewing alone. This compares to a 50-50 breakdown among viewers of live programming.

• DVR owners are younger, better educated and have higher incomes than the average U.S. household.

• The ratings contribution of VCRs continues to decline. VCR recording contributed 2.4% of total broadcast primetime ratings in January compared with 3.1% in January 2006, although it is higher (5.4%) during weekday afternoons.

Nielsen also presented an overview of emerging platforms for viewing video on personal devices based on data reported from its quarterly Home Technology Study, its National People Meter panel and its panel of iTunes (opens in new tab) users.

Nielsen was also scheduled to report that:

• 19% of households have at least one PVD. The largest penetration is for portable DVD players (10% of households) and video-enabled cellular phones (5%). Only 4% of households own a video-enabled iPod or MP3 player.

• Playing video on a personal device has not yet become an ingrained habit. Even among PVD owners, about two-thirds said it has been more than one week since they watched something on their portable player.

• About one-third of iPod owners played a video file during the fourth quarter of last year. 40% of those users who played video do not own a video iPod, meaning they are watching the video clips through iTunes on their PCs.

• Even among iTunes video users, 95% of all daily playback time (50 minutes and 30 seconds) is audio. The average iTunes video user plays video files only two-and-a-half minutes per day.

• Users of PVDs tend to have higher incomes, more education and larger families.