DVR Users Develop Ad-Skipping Strategy

While a recent report found that more than half of digital video recorder (DVR) users have actually rewound or paused television commercials to better understand the advertised product, Lyra Research presents information that illustrates premeditated ad-skipping behavior.

The survey of 611 U.S. DVR users found that a significant number of respondents delayed watching a TV show so that they can either skip ads or save time, with 10 percent reportedly doing this with all the TV shows they watched. Roughly one-third of the survey participants said they watched 61 to 100 percent of their TV shows with a delayed start time, with the largest portion saying they watched 1 to 20 percent of their TV shows delayed.

Programs Watched with
Delay to Skip Ads
Percent of Programs
Started Late
0% 17%
1-20% 24%
21-40% 10%
41-60% 17%
61-80% 12%
81-99% 10%
100% 10%
Source: Lyra Research

Steve Hoffenberg, director of electronic media research and principal analyst for the Lyra Research report, outlines the value of a delayed start time citing the example of a DVR user who sits down in front of the TV 15 or 20 minutes into the broadcast of an hour-long show.

“The user starts watching at the beginning of the recorded show and, as each commercial break commences, fast-forwards past the ads. By the time the show is over, he or she has caught up to real time and is watching live,” said Hoffenberg.

Additionally, 38 percent of those that were surveyed said that they skipped 100 percent of the ads when watching a recorded show, with another 31 percent saying they skipped 81 to 99 percent of the commercials. Only 6 percent said that they didn’t skip any commercials.

Even newbies who have used DVRs for less than 6 months skipped ads 72 percent of the time, according to the research, compared to veterans with 2+ years of DVR experience that skipped 84 percent of commercials.

The majority of survey respondents (40 percent) recorded via their satellite provider’s DVR, with standalone TiVo following closely at 34 percent. Only 16 percent said they used their cable provider’s DVR, largely due to the lack of widespread availability.

“Each cable company is at a different place with those [DVRs]. Most have only been doing it in the last six months or year, primarily because the hardware only became available recently. Most people can’t get them,” said Hoffenberg.

Despite the limited availability of cable DVRs, Hoffenberg doesn’t believe cable subscription rates will be negatively affected.

“My belief is that a small percentage are switching from cable to satellite to get DVR, but it’s not a primary reason why people would subscribe to satellite.” Hoffenberg continued, “The areas where satellite penetration is highest are rural areas where cable isn’t available. People that subscribe to satellite where cable is available is mostly because it costs less or has more high-definition channels or other channels they want.”

Satellite TV has taken the lead as the reception method of choice among the survey participants. Just over half (51 percent) subscribe to satellite TV, compared to 45 percent for cable.

A separate Lyra Research study of approximately 350 U.S. users of cable-TV video on demand (VoD) services revealed that more DVR users watched programming on-demand than those without DVRs. According to the Yankee Group, roughly 11.4 million households were VoD-capable at the end of 2003.

The firm noted the significance of the findings because it challenges the widespread industry assumption that DVR and VoD technologies are competing for viewers.

VoD Programs Watched in
Prior 30 Days
Free Paid
DVR users 10.9 2.7
Non-DVR users 7.1 1.6
Source: Lyra Research

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