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Surprising Science

Will The DVR Save Television From A Slow Death?

Rarely has a non-descript box beside your TV been the source of such heated division. While the DVR has provided great convenience for TV viewers unable to watch their favorite programs, it’s upset the TV industry in the process.

The most irked are advertisers, whose ad campaigns can now be fast-forwarded through and whose viewing metrics have been blurred by at-your-leisure programming.

Still, the box some say is hurting a lagging TV industry could ultimately save it.

With TV programmers forced to compete with other media, recent numbers from Nielsen could prove encouraging. It turns out DVRs actually increase viewership.

Nielsen’s People Meter shows the number of DVR owners increased from 12.3 percent to 30.6 percent since January 2007. These numbers are attributed primarily to cable providers integrating DVR into their cable boxes. But the DVR is starting to expand beyond home cable viewing.

Providers like Dish Network and Cablevision are rolling out mobile versions of their DVR service through which users will have access to their cable television from everywhere. And now that the DVR could be television’s savior, manufacturers are launching new boxes that could make TV a different experience for the long haul. A prime example is Panasonic’s newest model which comes equipped with a Blu-Ray DVD burner.

Elaborating on their numbers, Nielsen found that the increased popularity of the DVR has had a positive impact on overall viewership as well as program loyalty. At the same time, the spread of the DVR provides a new set of broadcasting metrics allowing both programmers and advertisers to see how and when people are watching.

It’s this increased access to metrics that could mark the DVR’s greatest influence. Tivo, one of the first companies to popularize DVR-style viewing, is looking to challenge Nielsen by offering stations, advertisers, and producers year-by-year, second-by-second data showing exactly how and when content is being viewed on the company’s boxes.

If Tivo’s approach is a success, the DVR might have industry critics eating their words before the transition to digital television is over.


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