The DVR Myth Debunked

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When the TiVo/DVR revolution started earlier this decade, most of us expected to see traditional advertising evaporate into oblivion. As soon as every cable and satellite provider under the sun rolled out affordable TiVo clones with a higher recording capacity and an easier-to-master operating system, the general assumption was that the world at large was now fast-forwarding their way through annoying, inappropriate or redundant commercials. According to a researcher at Duke University, though, we were wrong.

Professor Carl Mela from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business says that the ability to zip through advertisements through the magic of DVR hasn’t affected the amount of commercials we watch nor has it changed our buying habits. He shoots down our theories about advertising and DVRs, using findings from his study. Mela maintains that a whopping 95 percent of TV viewers still watch television live. He likens the use of DVRs to switching the channels during commercials, which also has no effect on buying habits.

Viewers fast-forward through about 70 percent of recorded commercials but still keep their eyes on the screen to know when to stop so they in fact are still exposed to the same amount of advertising as non-DVR users. Finally, the ability to record television and watch it whenever we want, Mela says, means that consumers are watching more television than ever before. The long and short of it? Researchers went on a hunt for the negative effects of using DVRs but came up with zilch. Anybody who’s ever watched an reality show on Bravo on DVR could have saved these guys a lot of time by forcing them to watch a Rachel Zoe Project Marathon with and without DVR.

Professor Mela and his colleagues at Chicago University tracked the consumer behavior of DVR devotees and normal television watchers for three years, so there’s no doubt they know what they’re talking about. But what do you think? Has DVR ruined traditional marketing and advertising?

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