A new friendship has recently been forged between television networks and their former foe – Digital Video Recorders, or DVRs.
The Nielsen Company, a global media company and one of the lead suppliers of television ratings, released findings that said 46 percent of viewers 18 to 49 years old watch commercials on their recorded programs.
Karen Gyimesi, senior director of media relations for Nielsen, acknowledged DVRs’ prominence as a media outlet in the U.S.
“DVRs are now in approximately 30 percent of American homes and this [percentage] is growing every quarter,” Gyimesi said in an e-mail interview.
However, the prevalence of DVRs in homes throughout the U.S. was once the cause of great concern to television networks. The thought that DVRs would eradicate audiences’ obligation to sit through commercials – television networks’ main source of revenue – was troubling to TV network executives.
They believed people were fast-forwarding through commercials, and the networks would not profit from the advertising revenue.
In 2001, many networks -including Viacom, Disney and NBC – banded together in a lawsuit against SonicBlue for copyright infringement. SonicBlue is the producer of ReplayTV, a DVR brand. The lawsuit later dropped.
Nielson’s findings illuminate the reverse – DVRs prompt more people to watch more TV, and thus, more advertising time is garnered.
David F. Poltrack, chief research officer for CBS, predicted a 1 percent increase from time-shifted programs over live programs. However, the actual increase was 7 to 12 percent.
Jesse Drew, associate professor and program director of technocultural studies at UC Davis, said network executives can now breathe easier over their abated dispute with DVR, but other media channels will show competition.
“It is important to realize that more media choices are eroding television audiences as a whole,” Drew said. “Many people are opting to spend their screen time on YouTube, Facebook and other more social, interactive types of media. These are more of a threat to the television networks than DVRs.”
Presently, television programs are holding their own against the Internet, with DVRs playing a substantial role. The Nielsen Company reported that Fox’s television show “House” became number one in commercials watched after finishing second in its live ratings to ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy.” Within the following three days of its live show time, 6.53 million viewers watched “House” on DVR, bumping its ratings higher than those of “Grey’s Anatomy.”
In addition, NBC’s “The Office” garnered a 26 percent increase in commercials watched due to DVR playback, becoming a program that was one of the highest in ratings.
Gyimesi attributes the rise in television ratings to the simplicity of DVR.
“DVRs make it easy to record TV programming which enables people to sample more television,” said Gyimesi.
Shows such as “The Office” and “House” are general dramas that The Nielsen Company said account for one-third of all digitally recorded content. Other programs, such as news, sports and movies less frequently time-shifted.
Drew said that while audience demographics are complicated to understand, certain attributes make some programs much more likely to be digitally recorded than others.
“First of all, there are some shows that have ‘addicted’ audiences, so that it is imperative to watch each and every program without missing one,” Drew said. “Other shows people watch more flippantly, missing an episode doesn’t bother them so much.”
Although DVR usage is less common for college students than adults who are past college-age and American families, its presence is not non-existent. Drew points to this as a merit rather than a detriment.
“Being able to manage time effectively is an important part of being a student, so in general, time-shifting is a better idea if television is important to a student,” Drew said.
Hudson Lofchie, a sophomore sociology major, said he no longer watches television. He only watches the shows he has chosen to record on his DVR.
“It allows us to go to class and record a show instead of skipping class to watch the show,” Lofchie said.
KELLEY REES can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.