PVR Users Skip 71% of Ads

The proliferation of personal video recording devices and software is indeed having a deleterious effect on television advertising, with most PVR users skipping primetime commercials, according to CNW Marketing Research.

The Bandon, Ore.-based consultancy, which conducted phone surveys with about 1,000 owners of PVRs such as TiVo or SONICblue’s ReplayTV, found that 71 percent of them on average fast forward through television spots during network primetime.

The average was slightly lower for cable television spots, with a 65.3 percent of users skipping ads.

For fast food, credit cards and upcoming network promos, the numbers were exceptionally high: more than 93 percent of PVR owners fast-forwarded these sorts of commercials.

On the other hand, spots for beer fared the best, with only 32.7 percent of viewers fast-forwarding through the ads. PVR users also were likely to watch direct-to-consumer prescription drug ads and movie trailers, with 46.9 percent and 47.3 percent of those surveyed skipping ads, respectively.

“We found two things dividing up things to watch, as opposed to not watching,” said CNW President Art Spinella. “Number one was entertainment, and number two was whether the ad was informative enough. For drugs, people want to know what’s there, for what ails them. That’s the informative side. Movie trailers and beer commercials are the entertainment level. Fast food is neither.”

The findings, which come as part of CNW’s ongoing Purchase Path studies, play into the hands of groups like the Online Publishers Association and the Interactive Advertising Bureau, which are looking to convince advertisers that new media formats have become a more effective — and trackable — channel for communication than traditional means, or at the very least, represent an important complement to print and television buys.

CNW’s findings also, quite naturally, would seem to further justify the concern expressed by advertisers, networks and producers over the growth of PVRs. In November, a host of major networks and producers jointly filed a now-controversial suit against SONICblue, aiming to shut down the firm’s automatic ad-skipping features

In the suit, the plaintiffs — including Viacom, General Electric, and the Walt Disney Co. — equate the ad-skipping feature as being tantamount to theft.

Still, CNW notes that the findings aren’t too far off from the number of consumers that ignore television ads anyway. The firm, which also interviewed about 8,500 television-watching consumers, said that 42.8 percent often neglect to watch ads altogether — by taking bathroom breaks, getting snacks, or talking.

“Many shows are just background shows — they’re there and you pay some attention, but you also carry on conversations through the entire show,” Spinella said. “Daytime television is that way. It’s become more background … baseball is another prime example — something that’s on two, three hours. With baseball, beer commercials actually stopped people more than the game did.”

Nevertheless, figures differ how large the PVR market is expected to grow — though experts do agree that it will see expansion. The Yankee Group estimates that the market will balloon to 20 million PVRs by 2005; Forrester Research predicts 50 million. Most estimates say that by the end of 2001, PVRs and PVR software for PCs were in about 1 million U.S. homes.

Those figures also don’t take into account more recent developments such as chip-making giant NVIDIA’s move last month to begin shipping its Personal Cinema PVR software with its GeForce4 family of graphical processing units .

While the developments seem likely to prompt a potentially painful examination on the part of campaign planners into the way modern consumers consume media, some advertisers are seeing opportunity with the devices. Companies including Best Buy and Vivendi’s Universal Pictures have signed deals to place their own interactive TV ads on ReplayTV and TiVo, in a bid to not only turn PVRs into a marketing channel, but also to distribute ads that could be more effective than non-interactive TV spots.

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