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Confirmation that TiVo Doesn’t Hurt TV Advertising

TiVo 4.0 Premiere XL DVR
TiVo Premiere XL DVR

Longtime readers should recall when Web Watch shared TiVo Viewing Statistics that listed what types of programs TiVo users were watching when skipping through commercials.  Those metrics indicated which were the most common shows to be watched live (such as American Idol) vs those shows that viewers would store up on their TiVo to watch later (such as Grey’s Anatomy).

There has been a long-standing debate among broadcasters and advertisers as to whether TiVo, DVRs, and the ability to skip commercials hurts advertising.  The belief was that if the viewer didn’t watch the commercial, then why bother to buy the advertising in the first place?

In the past year, we’ve seen more creative advertising pieces be put together, in an attempt to “TiVo-proof” the commercial.  Some movie trailers, for example, display static content in a black bar above the trailer being played — so even if the commercial is being fast-forwarded through, the viewer can still see the name of the film being advertised.

So even though a STUDY (by NBC) CAME OUT IN 2007 THAT SHOWED DVR USERS DO PAY ATTENTION TO COMMERCIALS, there still was uncertainty over this topic as DVR usage has become more and more prevelant.

That’s why Carl Mela at Duke University decided to look at the DVR usage data anew to see if there have been any changes.  The paper, entitled DO DVRs INFLUENCE SALES, covered three years of data and found that there was no substantial change in shopping habits between TiVo users and non-TiVo users

The reasoning behind the conclusion was:

  • About 95 percent of people watch television live.  This would include the commercials, obviously.
  • There are different forms of commercial skipping — DVR users can either fast-forward through the commercial, or use a “30-second skip” function to advance even more quickly.  Those who watch TV live may use the commercial breaks to leave the room, change channels, make a phone call, or otherwise disengage from the TV program.
  • As shown in the previous NBC study, DVR users still need to pay attention to the screen to know when to resume programming after the commercial break.  This “hyper-attention” leads to more commercial awareness, not less.
  • Of those recorded shows, viewers fast-forwarded through only about 70% of the commercials in them.
  • More TiVo and DVR use equals more television watching, and therefore more commercial exposure.

It should come as no surprise that the research paper was sponsored by TiVo.  This makes sense, as survey results that substantiated the earlier study about DVR users paying more attention to commercials could only help the TiVo business case down the road. 

TiVo, DVRs, and the ability to skip through commercials (and boring parts of some programs, like the first 55 minutes of the American Idol results show) are not going to go away.  And as the Super Bowl festivities show us, television viewers WILL watch commercial advertising willingly.  All the advertisers need to do is keep making worthwhile, amusing commercials — you make them, and we will watch.