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Dare We Hope This Means Less Product Placement? Naw...

By RD Heldenfels Published: November 16, 2005

The following arrived in the e-mail today from the broadcast networks. I'll have a few comments after:

Contrary to earlier claims that Digital Video Recorders would have an adverse impact on ad-supported television, executives from major broadcast networks released today clear evidence showing that homes with DVRs watch significantly more television, and could increase the average primetime audience for a program by an average of 4 percent.

In a presentation to reporters earlier today, the networks highlighted multiple reports showing that DVR households watched 12 percent more television, and that they are exposed to a greater number of commercial impressions. The results of these studies, though early, confirm what the networks’ own proprietary studies have found all along: DVRs increase the viewing of television’s most popular programming, as well as commercials.

          Among the highlights presented today:

n When factoring in DVR usage, primetime programs increase their audience by an average of 4 percent. This figure is based on a study conducted by Nielsen that examined DVR usage in seven major markets, including Houston, Tampa, Denver, Orlando, Charlotte, Raleigh and Austin - regions with large enough samples to report DVR usage.

n Homes with DVRs averaged 5.7 hours of television viewing per day, compared to 5.1 from homes without DVRs. This represents a 12 percent increase in the amount of time spent watching TV.

                 Additionally, the networks’ own proprietary research found that DVR viewers do pay attention to commercials, and that they show high levels of awareness/ recall on commercials they have fast-forwarded. Among the findings:

            n 58 percent of DVR users pay attention to commercials even while fast forwarding

            n 53 percent of DVR users have gone back to watch commercials they mistakenly skipped.

What these numbers show is that when added together, the audience levels for live and played back television represent a net gain for viewers of commercials. ...

n   In DVR households, the share of network television viewing was significantly greater than the average total viewing audience reported by Nielsen

n   DVR penetration in US households now stands at 8 percent, representing 11.4 million viewers. By 2010 that number is expected to grow to 39 percent (or 45.9 million viewers).

(end network announcement)

A few notes: Of course, a DVR makes me watch more network TV. The convenience of recording and the ease of playback (no messing with videotapes) are both factors. But I also end up recording more stuff than I manage to get to. And on many occasions, I am watching something I DVR'ed instead of other network programming, so they're gaining my attention in one place but losing it in another.

But when it comes to commercials, as much as possible they get fast-forwarded through. So unless the rapid stream of the image somehow delivers a subliminal message to my brain, the ads are not generally registering.

And no matter how happily the networks are trying to sound about this data, you're not going to see them go, "Oh, hey, we can just count on ads!'' They're going to keep looking for other ways to make money -- downloads, product placement, whatever it takes. 

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