. . . Tuesday November 16, 2004

This Just In: DVR Users Fast Forward

OK, so here are some of the latest stats on users of Tivo and other DVRs.

56% fast forward through commercials

72% who have owned a DVR for more than a year fast forward through commercials.

Not too surprising, right? But it also shouldn’t be all that surprising that DVR users tend to watch more broadcast television than they did before they got the new box. It makes perfect sense. For the last few weeks, I’ve been enjoying the show Lost (despite the fact that my wife has a thing for the dude who used to play Charlie on Party of Five). I like the show. I watch it every week.

But I probably wouldn’t watch it if I didn’t have TiVo. First, I’m not sure that I was initially attracted enough to the show for me to actually go out of my way to be home at the right time to check to out. Second, the number of commercials during Lost is irritating and ridiculous. Pre-TiVo, I was a flipper. I’m not sure I would’ve stuck around long enough to check the show out. In fact, I watched almost no network television in the years prior to my TiVo awakening.

So I’m watching their shows, but fast forwarding over their commercials. OK, it’s not the ideal for the marketer. But here’s the truth. I rarely watched commercials before TiVo. My remote control trigger finger wouldn’t allow it. I probably watch as many commercials now as I did then. And now I watch them actively because someone in the room actually wants to see what’s being advertised (say, a trailer for an upcoming flick) and thus I press pause, rewind and play on my DVR.

As I’ve mentioned here before, studies have shown that TiVo users (who were advanced remote control operators long before DVRs) watch more commerials than they did before. They just watch them really fast.

I don’t think that the migration of advanced television watchers to TiVo should worry media buyers all that much. But the movement of the mainstream, all thumbs, passive remote control operating public could present more of a threat. The stats above suggest that TiVo actually enables one to move up the totem pole in terms television-watching skill level. People who own a DVR for more time tend to gain more fast forwarding skills. Once DVRs go mainstream, those viewers who tend to watch commercials on television (as opposed to flipping) may figure out the joys of fast forwarding that is so core to the DVR’s offering.

That’s where product placement in the shows themselves comes in. If it proves effective, marketers may be able to target average television watchers along with advanced experts who will have nowhere to fast forward to…

Concentration is important!