DVR use is mixed blessing for television
By The Los Angeles Times
Published: Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012, 8:57 p.m.
One of the most popular new shows of the fall television season is NBC's “Revolution,” a drama about post-apocalyptic America.
But the real revolution is how people are watching it.
About 9.2 million viewers tuned in to a recent episode, a so-so performance. But that number jumped by nearly 5 million when the Nielsen ratings service added in the people who recorded the show and watched it later or saw it through video on demand or online.
“Revolution” isn't the only show whose popularity can no longer be measured solely by traditional TV ratings. Of the 18.1 million people who watched the season premiere of CBS' new gangster drama “Vegas,” 3.6 million did it hours or days after the episode originally aired. It is not uncommon for more than half of the audience for Fox's “Glee” to watch the show after it airs on Thursday nights. FX's “Sons of Anarchy” doubled its audience for a recent episode thanks to the digital video recorder. Even ABC's “Modern Family,” already one of the most-watched situation comedies on television, has gained as much as 30 percent of its audience from DVRs.
“This year is a tipping point for all of us to look at the world a different way,” said CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves.
Although the DVR is a blessing for couch potatoes, it is more of a mixed blessing for the television industry. The upside is that the DVR enables people to watch more television and gives executives another measuring stick to determine hits and flops instead of living and dying with overnight ratings.
The downside is that although DVRs enable viewers to catch shows they might otherwise miss, if someone is watching a recorded program it means they are not watching live TV. Networks still put great effort into designing lineups that will keep viewers tuned in to live TV. DVRs and other platforms have the potential to blow traditional viewing habits out of the water.
And if viewers are using their DVRs more to watch TV, it also means they can easily skip through commercials.
“I just don't think we can put all our eggs in one basket anymore,” said Andy Donchin, an executive vice president with Carat, which buys commercial time for General Motors, Home Depot and other companies. “It's time to see what other media platforms we can use to make up for the people who are not watching our commercials.”
Network executives and Nielsen contend that not everyone using a DVR is skipping commercials. In May 2010, a Nielsen analysis showed that in homes with DVRs, average prime-time commercial viewership among adults 18 to 49 - the demographic most popular with advertisers - jumped 44 percent from the time ads first aired to three days later.
“The ratings tell us people watch commercials when they are doing playback,” said Pat McDonough, a senior vice president at Nielsen. According to McDonough, almost half of all spots are viewed in playback mode. That figure, she said, has increased from a few years ago.
Viewers often simply forget they are watching a recording, particularly if they are seeing a show the same day it was recorded, McDonough said. There are also more eye-catching advertisements.
“The people making the commercials know how to get us to come off the fast-forward button, McDonough said.
According to Nielsen, 50.3 million of the nation's 114.2 million homes with a television have a digital video recorder - nearly half of all homes with a television. Although DVR penetration is starting to slow, people are using the devices more. CBS research indicates that DVR usage has grown 6 percent so far this television season compared with the same period last season. DVRs are also getting more sophisticated and can record multiple shows at the same time.
Networks are compensated by advertisers for commercials watched up to three days after the initial airing of a given show. But as more consumers fill up their DVRs and take their time watching what they have recorded, TV executives want to extend that threshold by a few days.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Mon Valley communities plan cleanup day activities
- U.S. Steel presents tuition scholarship money for Catholic education
- Dravosburg residents try to save PNC Bank from closing
- Carnegie Library of Homestead spotlighted in CNN iReport
- Jailed Hribal ‘fine,’ but family ‘terrible’ as answers in stabbing sought
- Starkey: Fleury’s future at stake
- Five years later, Crosby wants another Cup win
- Hempfield Area superintendent, business manager quit
- 73-home subdivision plan approved for Westwood Golf Club
- Forward officials announce furniture sale
- Indiana company gets OK to sell former West Mifflin municipal building