Nielsen, Magna Global: DVR Users Watch More TV

Network researchers have stridently claimed that DVR users watch more television--and two reports this week may help advance that argument. The studies show that as DVR homes expand at a rapid clip, TV use in American homes also grows.

Nielsen reported yesterday that the average American home watched a record amount of television per day in the just-ended 2005-06 season: 8 hours and 14 minutes--up three minutes from the season before.

In prime time, households took in an average of 1 hour and 54 minutes a night--up a minute over the year before. That could be a particularly appealing stat to network researchers, who have argued that hit prime-time shows are most likely to be viewed via DVRs, leading to increased consumption.

Other ammunition in Nielsen research shows that adults 18 to 34--a demo often considered most likely to use a DVR--watched 4 percent more television in prime time, and 3 percent for the full day. Another key demo--adults 18 to 49--yielded similar results for last season: Prime time up 2 percent, and full day up 1 percent.

Word of the viewership increases comes as Magna Global released a new report showing that the number of DVR homes grew 62 percent to 15 million in the first half of 2006 over 2005. That's 14 percent of U.S. homes.

The Magna Global report provides additional stats to arm network researchers. It argues that new technologies lead to greater exposure for their programs. Nielsen findings show that television use increased--and the number of VOD-enabled homes grew 22 percent to 26 million in the first half of the year.

Still, the Magna Global report doesn't provide any data on DVR behavior. Moreover, linking the Nielsen and Magna Global data only provides fodder for guesswork. Television use in non-DVR homes--which still dominate--could be rising at a high enough level to increase the overall average, no matter what happens in DVR homes.

Also, the usage stats drawn from the Nielsen sample only began including DVR behavior data in midseason. Only 8.7 percent of Nielsen homes have a DVR--considerably less than the Magna Global figures. A Nielsen spokesman said that DVR behavior provided statistically insignificant data in its report.

And even if people with DVRs or VOD are watching more television, that hardly addresses networks' principal concern about ad avoidance. Both enable ad skipping--and in the case of VOD, include far fewer ads than a network broadcast.

However, if networks discover that DVRs and VOD lead to more viewer demand for programs, they may develop new ad models to capitalize on such findings.

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