TV networks now say digital recorders increase viewers

Back in the mid 1970s, television and movie executives predicted dire harm from the arrival of home video recording. Of course, the opposite proved true, increasing viewers and creating the booming new home video market.

More recently, executives predicted similar fallout from digital video recorders. Any device that allowed viewers to skip the commercials and watch shows at their leisure had to bad. Right?


Six major networks have issued a new report that says DVRs actually boost television audiences. CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, the WB and UPN are now trying to put to rest their earlier claims that DVRs will undermine the commercial value of broadcast television.

The networks now say DVRs lure viewers who might otherwise miss shows when they first air. “For most of the top television programs, the audience will be greater for these programs as DVR penetration increases,” said David Poltrack, head of ratings research for CBS. “The DVR is going to increase viewership to major network television programs.”

Reports said nearly eight percent of U.S. homes use a DVR and that homes with a DVR watched 5.7 hours of television daily compared with 5.1 hours for homes without a recorder.

As to the contentious issue of commercials, the nets reported that 90 percent of viewers claimed they skipped all or most commercials when they watched a show played back on DVR. However, the networks’ research showed 58 percent paid attention to the commercials in a fast-forward mode and 53 percent have gone back to watch an ad that interested them.

Back to the top