People with digital video recorders like TiVo never watch commercials, right?
Add that to the list of urban — and suburban — myths.
It turns out that a lot of people with digital video recorders are not fast-forwarding and time-shifting as much as advertisers feared. According to new data released yesterday by the Nielsen Company, people who own digital video recorders, or DVRs, still watch, on average, two-thirds of the ads.
One big reason is that many people with DVRs still tune in to watch about half of their shows at the scheduled start time, meaning they must sit through commercials.
And even when people watch recorded shows later, many are not fast-forwarding through the ads. On average, Nielsen found, DVR owners watch 40 percent of commercials that they could skip over — perhaps because they like ads, don’t mind them or simply can’t be bothered.
“People are actually playing back more of the commercials than we thought,” said Steve Sternberg, executive vice president and director of audience analysis at Magna Global Media Research, an ad-buying agency. “People are buying DVRs not because they want to time-shift all of their viewing and skip all commercials, but because they want to time-shift some of their viewing.”
While the new data may well be fodder for cocktail party chatter, it also has major financial implications. Largely because many advertisers thought that people with DVRs were not watching their ads, they have not been paying for time-shifted viewing on DVRs. Now the networks could use the new information to try to charge more. And advertisers may begin pressing networks to rethink commercial breaks — maybe making them shorter.
People who have DVRs often insist that they never watch commercials, as if skipping commercials is a badge of honor. And while it is true that some DVR owners probably watch no commercials, others never touch the fast-forward button. Most people are probably in the middle of those two extremes.