Set-Top-Box Lexicon: The PVR And DVR

CIMM's Set-Top Box Data Lexicon is a compilation of terms and definitions associated with Set-Top Box data and its measurement. This Word-A-Week column highlights a term and definition from the Lexicon to help forge a common language for Set-Top Box data usage and expedite the roll-out of the data for its many industry applications. 

Once called Personal Video Recorders, Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) enable viewers to pre-record programs and view them at their convenience in trick play modes. DVRs are also touted as one of the major forms of commercial avoidance, which has in turn led to numerous research studies that try to understand the impact of DVR usage.  

The DVR adoption, currently pegged at about 35% of the television universe, has not yet reached critical mass but has certainly impacted how viewers view television and view (or not view) commercials. But the rate of adoption has been slow: Forecasters say that critical mass will be reached in 2016 when DVRs are estimated to crack the 50% penetration level. ("DVRs Approaching Critical Mass, Finally: Prove More Of A Whimper Than A Big Bang"



While we wait for critical mass to be reached, and the full impact of DVRs to be felt, here are the definitions of both the DVR and PVR:


DVR abbr Digital Video Recorder

See also: Personal Video Recorder

CIMM DEFINITION: It is a device that enables a viewer to record video that can be viewed at a later time and with trick play functionality. Definition currently under review by CableLabs.

2.  A device that allows a user to record programming to a hard drive to be watched at a later time available as a standalone device or through the Set-Top Box offered by a cable satellite or Telco service provider. (Source: Nielsen)

3. A high capacity hard drive that is embedded in a Set-Top Box , which records video programming from a television set. These DVRs are operated by personal video recording software, which enables the viewer to pause, fast forward, and manage all sorts of other functions and special applications. (Source: 

4. A device that records video in a digital format to a disk drive or other memory medium within a device. The term includes stand-alone Set-Top Boxes, portable media players (PMP) and software for personal computers which enables video capture and playback to and from disk. (Source: IAB)


PVR abbr Personal Video Recorder

See also: Digital Video Recorder

CIMM DEFINITION: A consumer device which uses a hard disk drive to record television programs based on the user's preferences. Also provides pause of live television feature. Or a set of equipment that allows a user to timeshift television without removable media. (Source: CableLabs) 

2. Older term for a DVR.

Please refer to the CIMM Lexicon online at for additional information on these and other terms.

2 comments about "Set-Top-Box Lexicon: The PVR And DVR".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, April 21, 2011 at 1:05 p.m.

    PVR. The acronym that will not die! TiVo invented the term and then abandoned it in favor of DVR, which won favor. No matter. PVR lives on, regardless of logic.

  2. John Grono from GAP Research, April 25, 2011 at 7:56 a.m.

    That gave me a chuckle Douglas.

    Down here in Australia we do differentiate between the two.

    A DVR is a Digital Video Recorder - ergo it must be digital and have a hard drive, flash memory, USB drives ... whatever. A PVR is a Personal Video Recorder which obviously includes all the digital ones, but also analogue ones such as VCRs. That is, PVR > DVR. However, in practice PVR = DVR for all intents and purposes.

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