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Survey Finds Majority Of Americans Use DVR Technology

August 17, 2010

A new survey has found that the majority of TV viewers across the country are using time-shift technology to watch shows at their convenience.

Comcast Corp. said that 62 percent of U.S. viewers were interviewed in a poll conducted on the eve of the new fall season.  The nation’s largest cable company said that six out of 10 people own DVR technology.

The survey found that 60 percent of viewers report time-shifting more than they did a year ago.  Eighty-four percent said they are doing it more often, and more than half of those people reported to say they use it “significantly more.”

“The people who are doing this are not young kids who wear black and live in SoHo,” Alan Wurtzel, chief researcher for NBC Universal, told The Associated Press (AP). “They are mainstream.”

The popular HBO series “Entourage” averages 1.78 million viewers during its Sunday-night debut of each week’s episode.  Another 1.87 million people watch the program on DVR, while 1.66 million order it later in the week from on demand services. 

Comcast’s survey said that 4 out of 5 people said they would be watching some programs live this fall.  However, 41 percent said they would also be watching some shows on DVR, 17 percent said they would see some online and 16 percent said they would order programming using on demand.

Diana Kerekes, Comcast’s vice president of video services, told AP that people at the company are struck at how fast the technology caught on.  She said that is evidence in both the survey’s findings and Comcast’s internal data of how the company’s products are used.

Kerekes said the rise of DVR ownership has been well chronicled, but fewer people are aware of how quickly on demand viewership is catching on.  She said Comcast has about 350 million orders of VOD programming a month. She added that television shows now surpass movies, music videos and children’s programming.

She also said that most of the networks offer programming for on demand usage, although frequently not until the day after it appears on TV.  Comcast had about 1,7000 items for on demand viewing during an average month in 2004.  The company currently offers over 17,000 a month.

Time Warner Cable Inc. averaged 1,400 on demand offerings a month in 2005, but the company currently offers over 12,000 every month.  There has been an 800 percent increase in use of a Time Warner feature that allows viewers to start at the beginning of a program no matter what time they tune in.

Kerekes said that it will be important for networks to understand the different experiences for customers watching a show as it is placed on the TV schedule, online or on demand.  HBO creatively offered “extras” on demand leading up to “The Pacific” miniseries, including a Tom Hanks interview, which helped drive viewers to the show’s premiere on the TV network.

Comcast’s survey of 1,00 people was conducted online between July 22 and 28 by International Communications Research.  The survey’s margin of error was plus or minus 3.1 percent.

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