"The short answer is no," said David Poltrack, EVP/research at CBS Television. He said that data from the network's 12,000 panel viewers - and projections as PVRs gain more than the 1% share of TV households they have now - show that even at 75% penetration only 20% of PVR users will skip commercials. He said that while the PVRs will force commercials to become more compelling, it's not going to destroy the 30-second commercial.
Irwin Gotleib, chairman/CEO of MindShare Worldwide, cautioned that the industry shouldn't get carried away with worry about PVRs. He said advertisers should be careful and watch what they're doing but that it's not the end of advertising any more than the VCR was when it caught fire 20 years ago.
"It probably will not have much more impact than what David described," Gotleib said. He said that the PVR-as-a-big-threat scenario is predicated on the assumption that viewers want to be programmers but that's not true. "The average viewer has no intent of programming their own network."
Andy Fisher, president of Cox Television, said that diversions from the remote control to the refrigerator have been around for a long time but it hasn't stopped significant numbers of viewers from watching commercials.
"PVRs are a great way to see really popular TV shows," said Fisher. He believes that PVRs will only increase the viewership of "A and B" programs. It's only the "C and D" shows that will suffer, Fisher said.
Panelists felt that soon the TV and advertising industry would find ways to counter the effects of PVRs.
"Somehow, someone, then groups of people, are going to find ways to adjust," said Tom Freston, president of MTV.
Greg Schmidt, VP of new development at LIN Television, noted several approaches: Shorter or longer commercial breaks, product placement, interactive TV and real-time commercials.