TV networks say digital recorders raise viewership

Updated: Nov 21 2005, 05:30am hrs
Far from being the TV doomsday machines that some have predicted, digital video recorders that allow viewers to skip advertising and watch shows at their leisure will actually boost television audiences, the major networks said. That was the principal finding in a report issued by the six major networks CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, the WB and UPN that sought to allay concerns in the media industry that DVRs will undermine the commercial value of broadcast television.

Advertisers and investors have watched the entry of DVRs into the mass market, led by TiVo Inc., with a wary eye for several years. Some predicted the features that let viewers skip ads and watch programs at their convenience would spell the death of ad-supported broadcast TV and its prime-time programming schedule.

But in their research on the use of DVRs, the television networks said the technology offered an opportunity to attract 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, David Poltrack, head of ratings research for CBS said.

The DVR is going to increase viewership to major network television programs. Nearly 8% of U.S. homes use a DVR, with that number expected to grow to 39% by 2010.

Acknowledging that trend, Nielsen in January will begin to issue national television ratings that include DVR playbacks within a day f original airing and up to seven days later. On average, homes with a DVR watched 5.7 hours of television daily compared with 5.1 hours for homes without the device, the networks said.

DVR households still watch about 90% of their TV at original broadcast time, while the remaining 10% that is recorded favor the most popular broadcast programs during a given season.