Many DVR Users Still Watch Commercials

I’ve noted in the past that networks are starting to consider viewing of shows on DVR’s when evaluating the success of a show. Advertisers are also finding that DVR’s are actually helpful. It was easy to predict that having the ability to watch television shows whenever someone wants was going to increase overall viewership when DVR viewers are included. I even doubt that continuing shows such as Lost would do very well without DVR’s as more people would give up on them when unable to catch every episode as aired.

While it was expected that DVR’s would increase total viewership, it was previously felt that they were harmful to advertisers as people would fast forward through the commercials. It turns out that this is not the case.  Viewing of commercials increases along with the viewing of television shows due to DVR’s:

Against almost every expectation, nearly half of all people watching delayed shows are still slouching on their couches watching messages about movies, cars and beer. According to Nielsen, 46 percent of viewers 18 to 49 years old for all four networks taken together are watching the commercials during playback, up slightly from last year. Why would people pass on the opportunity to skip through to the next chunk of program content?

The most basic reason, according to Brad Adgate, the senior vice president for research at Horizon Media, a media buying firm, is that the behavior that has underpinned television since its invention still persists to a larger degree than expected.

“It’s still a passive activity,” he said.

This is different from how I use a DVR. Most of the  prime time shows I watch are viewed at different times, and often different days, from when originally aired. I always skip through the commercials, except in the rare cases when I’m actually doing something else with the television on and don’t have a free hand to operate the remote. In these cases having the commercials shown is not of any benefit to the advertiser as I’m likely not paying any attention. Even on days that my family watches television at approximately the time a show is broadcast, we will often plan to start watching fifteen minutes late so we will not have to see the commercials.

While we are the nightmare scenario that advertisers worried about when DVR’s (and previously VCR’s) became available, I’m not surprised that nearly half the country watches television so passively that they don’t even bother to skip through the commercials.

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