Nielsen says DVRs increasingly important to broadcasters

DVRs are in nearly 40 percent of homes in the United States now, said the Nielsen Company and have “quickly progressed from a novelty to an increasingly mainstream technology.” That’s the message contained in a new report that assesses the effects that the devices have had on the television industry.

Nielsen suggests that DVR owners are watching more TV and commercials overall. In fact, among homes with DVRs, the ratings of commercials for some shows, particularly shows that attract younger audiences on Fox and the CW, soar by more than 50 percent when played back within three days.

The report is intended for Nielsen’s advertiser and network clients. Those clients can consider making changes to adapt to the on-demand behavior of viewers. One change, Nielsen said, might involve the teases for local 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts.

Since many DVR owners are in playback mode at the 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. hours, Patricia McDonough, the senior vice president for planning, policy and analysis at Nielsen, said “you need to promote differently. You may need to promote earlier.”

The report seems aimed, in part, at refuting the notion that DVRs have no value for networks and advertisers. “Some people still say, ‘Nobody watches commercials.’ That’s not true,” McDonough said.

In homes that have DVRs and among 18- to 49-year-olds, ratings for the commercials for prime time shows increase by 44 percent when playback within three days is counted, Nielsen said. It noted “this degree of lift to the viewing of commercials has remained steady for several years.”

“These are also the viewers most likely to be media multitasking — texting, Facebooking, etc. — during the commercials, using that as ‘downtime’ to do other things until the commercial is over,” said Don Seaman, a vice president and the director of communications analysis for the media agency MPG.

“Are we saying that they’re too lazy to pick up the remote to fast-forward? Far from it. They’re probably likely using commercials as a timing device to know when to pay attention to the TV again,” Seaman said.

Of the 18- to 49-year-old demographic, McDonough said, “the one thing that continues to strike us is the dramatically different profiles when one looks at the live audience versus the playback audience.”

“The playback audience,” she said, “is so much younger and so much more upscale. Even though they are skipping commercials, they are the consumers that most advertisers are very eager to get.”

The number of homes with DVRs has increased over the last five years, according to Nielsen, to 38.1 percent in September of this year. If the economy were more robust, DVRs would be even more prevalent, McDonough suggested.