Occupy Television: They Are the 4%

  • by , Featured Contributor, February 3, 2012
What do you consider all?  Is it the usual definition of all -- as in, “the whole quantity or amount; the entirety; each and every”?  Or is it about 4%?
Because that’s about what “all” is based upon in reference to this recent statement “Only a third of all television viewing nowadays happens “live.”  According to TiVo’s estimates, only about 38% of viewing happens in real time. This was based upon a study of Tivo subscribers -- which at 2 million homes, counts for about 4% of all DVRs households in the U.S.
The reality is that’s not representative of the actual TV universe.  It’s not even representative of what’s going on in DVR homes. The latest Nielsen estimate of DVR penetration in their sample is about 41.3%. So without DVR technology in the home, thus being part of the C3 ratings currency, unlike with other time-shifters, such as VCRs, Hulu, Roku, and Xbox Live, for example, that leaves nearly 60% of all measureable TV homes in the U.S. unable to time-shift their traditional TV content using a DVR.  They watch live.  About 100% of them.

The more significant point to highlight here is that even with TiVo, about 40% of TV is consumed live.  But to make the inference that this behavior is representative of all DVR users is most likely unwise, since TiVo owners have to make the conscious decision to purchase a TiVo unit above and beyond another DVR device.  
A DVR through a cable provider or some other source is just an add-on to a basic service plan.  In fact, you don’t even need cable at all to use a TiVo box.  So TiVo users are the power users of time-shifting and are actively looking for a better DVR experience. They will pay a premium for it.  (Full disclosure – I’m one of those households.  My TiVo is far more important than any cable box could ever be. You couldn’t remove the TiVo from my home without using explosives.)

Yet the TiVo household viewing is still a 60/40 split, time-shifted versus live.

TiVo has never claimed to be representative of the overall TV universe, just of their subscriber base.  But the TiVo user is also not quite representative of a standard DVR owner, either.  Since they sought out the product, TiVo owners are typically more engaged with their DVR than owners of other generic boxes.  TiVo flat-out provides a heightened viewing experience than a generic DVR.  
It’s like comparing a Mac to a PC; TiVo provides a very user-friendly platform.  The interface encourages exploring TV content, which brings more time spent with the medium.  And that’s a good thing for the industry.

But what it’s not is a bellwether for how Americans currently consume their TV content.

According to Nielsen’s Cross Platform Report, on a national basis, People 2+ watch about 146 hours of live TV per month, compared to about 10 hours of time-shifted TV. That might be just shy of 38%.  In fact, it’s even short of 10%.  It’s actually about 7%.  

I suppose the bigger takeaway could be that even TiVo users watch a fair amount of live TV.  Because even though you can wait for great television, it doesn’t mean that you have to.



1 comment about "Occupy Television: They Are the 4%".
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  1. John Grono from GAP Research, February 4, 2012 at 3:07 a.m.

    Excellent post Don.

    There is also another parameter involved here. I notice that you quote "According to TiVo’s estimates, only about 38% of viewing happens in real time."

    So, if the phone rings and I hit pause, dash to the phone only to find it is an unwanted tele-sales call or a wrong number, then dash back to the TV and start watching again I am not "in real time". Surely any 'time-slipping' (say up to 15 minutes?) is so close to "as live" that to the average viewer if they watched in close proximity to broadcast time then THEY would consider it live because they can still talk about it around the water-cooler tomorrow.

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