Tuned In

Is Your DVR Killing Advertising?

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The early ratings numbers for the Fall 2007 season are in, and the most astonishing one is not for any particular show. New NY Times TV reporter and former TV Newser Brian Stelter reports that DVR ownership has gone up from 9 percent a year ago to a whopping 20 percent this fall. This fits with what I’ve heard anecdotally, including the response to Tuned In’s latest TV-tech poll, but still, that’s an over 100 percent increase year on year. (Isn’t it? I was an English major.)

Among the implications, and possible implications:

* If anyone tells you the morning after a show airs whether it’s a hit or not, don’t believe them. Aware of the boost in DVR viewing, Nielsen has updated its ratings system to take into account DVR viewings after the live broadcast. Whether advertisers will care about this number is another question (see below). Which means it’s going to take longer for the ratings dust to settle than it used to.

* A possible boost for shows, like 30 Rock, that have a younger, richer, or generally earlier tech-adopting audience and watch more often on DVR. The Times reports that How I Met Your Mother viewership exploded 52 percent after a week of DVR viewing.

* Look for a slew of extensive and totally unbiased studies from the networks attempting to prove that DVR viewers pay as much or more attention to the ads as viewers watching live.

This last point is the big issue, of course, since network ratings mean nothing except insofar as they prove a show’s value to advertisers. (Nielsen, as the story notes, is now recording the viewership for commercials as well as the viewership for the program itself.)

I’ve read the claims that DVR viewers are more likely to watch ads that they’re interested in anyway, that some people don’t even fast-forward through ads, that the fast-forwarded ads still register with us in some subliminal, backward-masking kind of way. I’m not a social scientist, but I know that doesn’t reflect what goes on in my house.

But this is where you come in, DVR-wielding Tuned Inlanders. Do you ever watch ads anymore? Or do you only think you don’t watch ads anymore?