New Data Suggests DVR Owners Watch Less, Not More

As the spin wars continue on the impact of DVRs on television consumption, new research has emerged. A highly regarded media researcher's findings contradict the networks' insistence that DVR users watch more television.

New data from Mediamark Research (MRI) shows that adults in DVR homes watch less television than those without the devices. The research shows that they are 23 percent less likely to be heavy television viewers versus the general population.

Although they believe DVR users to be rabid commercial skippers, the broadcast networks have maintained that people in DVR homes watch more television--broadcast shows in particular. That's intended to convince advertisers that they may get more exposure for their money. The nets argue: Even if the ads are skipped, viewers get a glimpse of the marketing messages. Last fall, network executives disseminated research showing that DVR homes watch 12 percent more television.

Those struggling to reconcile such disparate conclusions might benefit from Nielsen's new commercial ratings, coming this fall, and a new service from TiVo. The DVR marketer announced a program Wednesday to provide advertisers with second-by-second tracking of DVR viewership, providing a gauge to determine whether ads are skipped, in part or in full.



MRI's DVR findings came from its annual spring study of the media consumption habits of 26,000 adults--2,912 with DVRs. Research was conducted from March 2005 through May 2006.

According to the study, one reason that those in DVR homes may be watching less television is that they spend more down time reading and trolling the Internet. MRI found that adults in DVR homes are 43 percent more likely to be heavy magazine readers, 40 percent more likely to be heavy newspaper readers, and 81 percent more likely to be heavy Internet users.

Based on MRI's research and the widely held belief that DVR users tend to have higher education and income levels, those findings are not a surprise. Consider MRI's findings: 36.8 percent of adults with DVRs have a college education (compared to 25.2 percent of the general population), and 17.1 percent earn more than $150,000 a year (versus 8 percent of the general pool).

Accentuating the MRI research, Nielsen wrote in a spring note to clients that 69 percent of DVR homes have a household income of $50,000-plus; 27 percent are at or over $100,000. The Nielsen note provided some verification for networks' contention that their shows are viewed by DVR users more than cable programs. For programs airing on every night but Saturday, Nielsen found that a large majority viewed in play-back mode were broadcast shows. On Thursdays, 65 percent of the playback viewing was for broadcast shows.

TiVo's new DVR behavior data will come from a new division of the company dedicated to the study of DVR usage. TiVo promises to provide advertisers with viewership and skipping data for ads viewed in time-shifted fashion--parsed by network, genre, day-part, and pod position. (Audience demo info will not be available). Viewership can be tracked up to 14 days after a live broadcast.

TiVo has found that its consumers watch programs 50 percent of the time in delayed mode and zap ads 70 percent of the time, according to The New York Times. On one level, the TiVo initiative is designed to keep pace with Nielsen's new commercial ratings, which promise to provide insight into whether ads viewed via DVRs are skipped.

The TiVo data will be based on a random anonymous analysis of 20,000 TiVo users each day. TiVo has a pool of 4.4 million homes to draw from. In an apparent shot at Nielsen, which measures viewership based on a sample of some 10,000-plus homes, TiVo said its research pool "is more than two times the size provided by most industry panels."

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