DVR: The great equalizer

Friday, May 8, 2009 | 3:29 PM

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Our TV Viewership Insights Series delves into the learnings Google TV Ads is starting to develop from anonymous data from millions of set-top boxes across the United States. We started the series yesterday with a look at how the tuning metrics we measure are signals from viewers about what they want to see and when they want to see it. Today we're focusing on how DVR affects how audiences watch television.

There has been an explosion of content on television over the past few years. While in the past viewers were limited to a handful of networks, today's viewers have access to hundreds of channels. From the data, we've learned that this increase in TV content has not really changed the way people watch live TV. Live television viewership is mostly concentrated on the top networks, and viewers seem to be watching TV at the same times, day after day. However, when DVR recording comes into play, these viewing patterns start to change.

Check out this video to learn what we found:

The networks that are less popular when viewed live can have as many recordings as more popular networks, and other times of day can be as frequently recorded as prime time. The most popular (live) networks still tend to attract the most recordings across the week, but individual hours on smaller networks can sometimes match those at the top, as viewers use their DVR to seek out interesting content beyond the usual top choices. Although a lot of people do record the top networks, those networks don’t seem to grow their audience significantly through time-shifted viewers.

At Google, we’re very interested in the “long tail” of TV. Our findings suggest that DVR may be making that long tail a little fatter. And while most TV viewing is still live, DVR usage patterns may be an important indicator of future viewing behavior. One way or the other – either through the proliferation of DVR boxes or through the migration of TV content to on-demand services online – viewers are getting more control over their TV schedules. This data suggest that viewers really use this control when they get it and don’t just watch the same programs as before.

Posted by Deeksha Hebbar, Associate Marketing Manager for Google TV Ads