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How DVRs Are Changing the Television Landscape
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How DVRs Are Changing the Television Landscape

Americans are watching more TV than ever, and the increasing penetration of DVRs has likely contributed to increased viewership.  But “Must See TV” doesn’t mean that people are gathering around their TV anymore during primetime on a Thursday night.  Appointment viewing is now when the viewer wants to watch it thanks to DVRs.  As of March 2009, 30.6 percent of households in Nielsen’s National People Meter Panel have a DVR, up significantly from just 12.3 percent in January 2007.

A key factor to this expansion is the integration of DVRs into cable and DBS set top boxes: 55 percent of DVR homes had it as part of their cable box and 40 percent had a DVR within their DBS box.  Just 5 percent had a standalone DVR.  And as households recognize the convenience DVR offers, a growing number are becoming multi-DVR households.  25 percent of homes had two, while 5 percent had three or more.

“DVRs are changing the way Americans watch TV. Despite the competition for viewers’ attention from the Internet, video games and other media, TV viewership continues to rise.  As with other vehicles, convenience is key – allowing people to consume content when they want.  DVRs are a relatively inexpensive and useful tool for viewers to do that,” said Pat McDonough, Senior Vice President, Planning Policy & Analysis at Nielsen.

So what are people recording and when are they finding the time to playback recorded programs? Most playback is occurring during primetime, early fringe and late fringe.  Playback during the day was highest on Saturdays and Sundays as viewers used the weekend to catch up on their favorite programs and movies.  Programs recorded between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. were played back within the same day more than those airing at 10 p.m., which could impact live viewership of programs airing at 10 p.m. and later.

Of Nielsen’s 56 Metered Markets, the top ten for DVR penetration are:

Rank Market % Penetration
1 San Diego 37.7%
2 Austin 37.4%
3 Dallas-Ft. Worth 37.2%
4 Orlando-Daytona Bch-Melbrn 36.8%
5 Los Angeles 36.2%
6 Sacramento-Stktn-Modesto 35.2%
7 San Francisco-Oak-San Jose 34.1%
8 San Antonio 34.0%
9 Raleigh-Durham 34.0%
10 Tampa-St. Pete 33.5%
Source: The Nielsen Company

Download a full copy of Nielsen’s DVR report, including more detailed information about playback, impact on program loyalty, demographics and possible implications for networks here.