Nielsen released some DVR viewing research yesterday. Unfortunately, in seeking to demonstrate that DVRs weren't assaulting the ad supported television business model they answered the wrong question. The strawman question that Nielsen seemed to pose was:
"Does anyone watch any TV commercials during DVR playback?"
Contrary to fears that DVRs would wipe out the value of commercials because of viewers fast-forwarding through ads, DVRs actually contribute significantly to commercial viewing. In May 2010, the average rating for a primetime commercial minute among persons age 18-49 in DVR households rose from 1.54 in live viewing to 2.21 three days later –a 44% lift.
Of course people watch some commercials during DVR playback, I don't know any reasonable person who'd suggest otherwise. But the question that's more applicable to the ad supported TV business model, and probably not conclusively answerable, is:
"Do households with DVRs watch more commercials today than they would today if they didn't have a DVR?"
I have a hard time believing the answer to that question is yes.
If not, I'm certain that Nielsen's biggest customers, the ad supported television networks, don't want that question answered publicly.