Sole Attention: DVR Viewing A Bonanza For Advertisers

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DVR usage is a lesser activity among multitasking consumer chores than other media. That's according to veteran TV researcher Steve Sternberg, who notes that DVR use is the highest "sole medium used with no other life activity." DVR-only use by consumers is done 59% of the time. This data comes from the Council for Research Excellence's Video Consumer Mapping Study. Sternberg is a member on the council.

The other "sole medium" consumer experiences are farther down the list: live TV (45%); print (33%); computers (18%); or video streaming (11%). Sternberg says: "Clearly, there are fewer distractions competing for attention when viewers are watching TV via DVRs." Because of this sole attention, Sternberg says the DVR audience is more valuable to advertisers than live audiences. An added bonus: they are younger. For big broadcast networks, that means about 10 years younger than live audiences for DVR playback.



The five networks' median age is 40, versus 51 median age for its live audience. ABC is 40 years with DVR playback, 51 years old live; CBS is 45 and 55; NBC is 39 and 49; and Fox is 36 and 44. Only the CW does not gain much in this comparison, with its already young-viewer skew. It has a 32 median age for DVR and 34 for live.

DVR usage has also had an effect on TV ratings. Online video streaming is not significant, with 97% to 99% of all consumers' video screen time going to traditional TV set viewing.

But given the high accessibility of online video streaming through computers, its reach is nearly equal to that of DVR playback. (DVRs are still only in one-third of U.S. TV homes.) Sternberg notes that viewers spent only about 15% as much time watching streamed videos as watching TV content on their DVRs.

Sternberg warns that if broadcast networks continue to promote less of their fall shows -- in part due to DVR use -- they will lose more "viewers to the ever-expanding category of "non-broadcast" television. And if their promos only effectively reach primarily the live viewing audience, the average median ages will likely continue to age."

Until recently, Sternberg was executive vice president for audience analysis for Interpublic Group of Cos.' Magna.

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