DVR Users Watch More TV, Just Not Live TV


For years, TV execs fretted that DVR usage was cutting into the amount of time spent watching commercials. Now there’s some evidence that not only do DVRs contribute to more TV viewing, but they also add more commercial time.

Nearly 40 percent of all U.S. households now have a DVR, according to data released by Nielsen on Tuesday, and those DVR viewers make up an ever-growing portion of overall TV viewing. In fact, Nielsen reports that when DVR playback is counted, those users actually watch more primetime TV than non-DVR owners.

When DVR usage is counted among households that own one, it adds 7.9 ratings points to their viewing. Despite the fact that non-DVR users watch more TV live, those with time-shifted device watched nearly a full ratings point more TV in total. Not just that, but viewers tend to watch shows not long after they’re recorded. Nearly half of all DVR viewing happens the same night that a show is recorded, and almost 90 percent of all time-shifted viewing happens within the first three days.

DVRs might increase the total hours of video viewed, but that audience is considered less valuable than the live audience, because DVR users are able to fast-forward through ads. But the Nielsen data suggests that DVR users watch more ads than you might think: According to the data, DVR playback adds about 44 percent lift to commercial ratings after three days. That means viewers watch roughly half of all ads, rather than fast forwarding through them.

TV viewing continues to move to an on-demand model for an increasing amount of scripted programming, and DVR adoption doesn’t look to decrease anytime soon. As a result, the lift from time-shifted ad viewing should be welcome news to programmers and advertisers alike.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Katie Brady.

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