According to Alex Mindlin in The New York Times
...adults in households that have digital video recorders watch less TV than adults in the general population, according to a recent analysis by Mediamark Research, an audience-measurement firm
The research contradicts earlier network-funded research that claimed that DVR ownership boosts viewership.
As Mindlin fails to point out (learn some sociology!) this study fails to compare people's viewership before and after they get a DVR. Instead, it compares people who buy DVR's to people who don't buy them. The study is meaningless because they're different groups.
People buy DVR's because they are busy people
and they are not always around the house in time to watch their favorite shows, and they can't be bothered to program their VCR. I think it's safe to make the assumption that busy people watch TV more selectively, which means less. Therefore, DVR owners will tend to watch less TV. But they were probably watching less TV than average before they got their DVRs, too.
Also, people who buy DVR's tend to be better off than the average TV watcher. DVRs are expensive gadgets, y'know. I bet you richer folks watch less TV than poorer folks, because money opens up other entertainment options: movies, restaurants, anything involving babysitters.
This study could have been meaningful if it measured TV watching among people of the same income and employment levels, some of whom have DVR's, some of whom do not.
I do think the networks are talking out of their hats when they claim that DVR ownership will boost viewership enough to compensate for many people not watching the ads. I gather some people do watch the ads, but I find that unfathomable. I'll sometimes stop and view what looks like it might be a clever ad -- and I'll almost always stop to watch a trailer for a movie I'm interested in -- but usually I'm hitting the "forward 30 seconds" button too fast to notice what I'm skipping. When DVR penetration reaches the same levels as VCR penetration, free TV paid for by ads is done for.
I'm far from rich but I own a DVR and I use to watch 8-12 hours of TV a day before Tivo. Now with TiVo I'm watching 4-6 hours of TV a day.
Yes, I'm obssesed.
But the difference is that now I have a computer and it is more interesting then TV. So I rush through TiVo shows just to get back to my PC.
I'll add until 2 years ago my I never had a PC.
I watch waaaay more TV than I would without a DVR. Just this week I recorded and watched 3 shows I would never have seen without Tivo: Bridezillas, Project Runway and Life on Mars.
Also, no one talks about this, but I stop and watch commercials IF THEY CATCH MY EYE. Intriguing words on the screen, interesting shots, something I don't expect? I hit play and watch the commercial in its entirety.
Every day we get closer to the future described in David Foster Wallace's "Infinite Jest" to come true, the happier I am. Except for the part where a piece of North America is lost to highly fertile radioactive waste.
But the roving packs of feral hamsters! The gigantic babies! And the samizdat!!! I want the Entertainment!
With a DVR, you cherrypick. The technology draws together the show you really want to see with that hour when you want to unwind, when you'd otherwise watch whatever was on.
I have two. And one of them will record from two channels at once. I can't remember when I last watched any TV in 'real time'.
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