DVRs Gain Almost Universal Awareness, Study Finds

Digital video recorders may be in only 2 or 3 percent of American homes, but the awareness of advanced television has never been greater, according to a new study.

More than 95 percent of consumers polled in a recent survey say they've heard of digital video recorders and high definition television, which research company Horowitz Associates Inc. calls almost universal. Horowitz Associates, a Larchmont, N.Y. market research firm, released on Tuesday the results of some of its annual State of Cable & Broadband study.

While consumers say they've heard of DVRs and HDTV, the survey finds that they might not know whether they can get either service from their cable provider. Thirty-eight percent of cable customers know whether they can get DVR service, compared to 78 percent of customers from direct-broadcast satellite providers. Satellite companies have spent a lot of money over the past few years marketing DVRs, from DirecTV's partnership with TiVo and Dish Network's development of its own device. Cable companies are only now bringing their own DVRs into full-scale distribution to their customers.

Horowitz Associates said that DVRs do, however, top the list for customers who are about to get digital cable or satellite service. Nearly 40 percent said they would pay extra for DVRs, HDTV, subscription video on demand (SVOD), or home networking. DVRs were most often mentioned by customers in the study, Horowitz Associates said.

Yet when matched with other technological leaps in television, cable providers rank DVRs behind other advances in value in attracting and keeping customers. While DVRs were mentioned by 54 percent of the cable industry executives, three other advances ranked higher: built-in high-definition service (68 percent); interactive program guides (58 percent), and video on demand (55 percent).

Other findings of the study:

-- Forty-one percent of the homes surveyed had digital TV, 27 percent with digital cable and 15 percent with satellite service. Sixty-five percent of the satellite customers said they'd stick with the dish, and only 4 percent would leave for digital cable.

-- Forty-five percent of cable subscribers rate their service favorably, compared to 13 percent who don't; the remainder fall somewhere in between. Sixty-five percent of satellite customers say they're happy with the service, compared to 8 percent who are unhappy; the remainder fall somewhere in between.

-- Reception and picture quality are the most important attributes for customers of each service.

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