DVR Owners Don't Watch Commercials… But Still Remember Them

from the how-does-that-work? dept

Business 2.0 is pointing out the amusing contradiction that comes out of two separate studies on the use of DVR devices (like TiVo). The first one pretty much states the obvious: DVR owners almost always skip commercials for shows watched on the DVR. Less than 1% actually watch the commercials. That actually contradicts an earlier study, but we noted at the time that the participants in that study may have watched more ads because they knew they were being watched. Then the twist. Another report finds that DVR owners remember ads just as much as non-DVR owners. The reasoning is pretty straightforward: fast forwarding through commercials takes more concentration on the actual commercials. Meanwhile, regular ad retention isn’t that great, because non-DVR owners walk away from their TV or flip channels during commercial breaks. So, even if DVR owners are not watching the commercials as intended, by keeping an eye on the ads for the sake of figuring out when to stop fast forwarding, the important points are getting passed on. That suggests, at the very least, that recent attempts at TiVo-proof ads makes some sense for advertisers.

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Comments on “DVR Owners Don't Watch Commercials… But Still Remember Them”

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knows (profile) says:

I make TV commercials for a living. For the last few years we have kept DVR (and even VCR, remember those?) users in mind. There have been many discussions on set about how ‘fast forwardable’ a given message would be.

Look at advertising trends in the last few years. Many (if not most) commercials now get the message across when played at any speed.

This TechDirt article is the first I have seen that mentions the concentration aspect, which is the key. Who cares if someone only concentrates on your ad for a few seconds? If they get the message our work is done. It’s better than having them in the bathroom or making a sandwich and missing it entirely.

Davey says:

See how long this works...

It will be interesting to see how long it will take DVR technology to “know” when the show starts again… so the concentration that makes so much sense at this time, it no longer necessary. I’m guessing at some point the wait for the fast forward would no longer be necessary, just appearing as a blip between segments…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: See how long this works...

There are many ways, but most are not usable for production use, Essentially it may never happen because a tv feed is just a stream, somtimes other informaiton comes along like the v-chip stuff, the audio format…But not every channel uses that tech. So it is possilbe to see when a program is sending out the v-chip rating, if it isn’t then FF, then if the same rating or mix of rating and sound format == that of the show then play. It will take convincing brodcasters to pass along the info.

I do agree though that it will be intresting when comercials feel like just a blip. What will be even more intresting is what will happen with HD when/if it gets standardized and forced into the market,

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

If its interesting; as in ‘clever’, I’ll watch it. Once. After that I’m gone down the DVR freeway. And that limey Geiko Gekko is wrong; If I’m watching a zoomorphic character play a guitar in an ad I don’t feel like I’m being entertained, rather, I fee like I’m being played. Which is exactly what Geiko does. I’ve called them for quotes on several vehicles and they’ve never been able to beat my current insurance carrier. Commercials suck.

Anonymous Coward says:

Of course, we wouldn’t need to fast forward if we didn’t have commercials. I do recall the party line for cable when it was first released… NO COMMERCIALS!!!! ya, and I still pay for cable that should either pay for its self with the revenues from the commercials, or go without commercials. I don’t ever recall seeing HGTV or the Discovery channel on anyones local over air line up. So there is no need for comercial ads to keep them running. Since most cable subscribers pay at least $50 for digital cable these days, that should cover the networks.

Of course, the big guy in the office on 5th ave in NY still drives his Bently to work. Wouldn’t it be better to move him to a $500/month office and have him drive a Kia so we don’t have to sit through commercials?

WhoTheHellCaresWhatMyNameIs says:

Re: Anonymous Coward

Since most cable subscribers pay at least $50 for digital cable these days, that should cover the networks.

Please, if _any_ of the cable companies could do this, it would be done in two minutes to undercut the market and steal the entire thing. After all, who would pay if they could get all the cable channels for free?

But it doesn’t work that way. For a cable company to lease the rights to show Discovery, the have to promise to buy a package of channels that include Discovery Animals, Discovery Houses, Discovery En Esparanto, Discovery WatchingPaintDry and all the rest, and sell them together. Even the ones that cannot otherwise support themselves because due to low audience counts advertisers won’t pay through the nose to advertise on them.

This is also why there is no a la carte channel purchasing.

Tom says:

I don't scan, I skip

My TiVo “skip” function does not fast-forward like a VCR, it actually jumps from where I am now to 30 seconds ahead. It doesn’t matter how much I concentrate, the commercial never appears on my screen, except for about the first 1 or 2 seconds, just long enough for me to decide if it’s commercial or content.

Harry says:

If the people who make commercials would get it through their heads that if they made commercials that werent annoying or cliche`d people would WANT to watch them. Instead of having someone scream the message or playing a silly song, or someone talking really fast or in any manner that you wouldnt see someone act in real life people wouldnt be annoyed with them. All you have to do is look at the Super Bowl most people look forward to commercials that day. If you made every commercial like those people would enjoy them. Also STOP USING THE SAME COMMERCIAL FOR 6 MONTHS. If you would make a new one every week people would like that as well.

SaltiDawg says:

30 Second Skip

Many of us do not “Fast Forward” but ratehr “30 Second Skip.” On a typical network show commercial break I might rapidly hit the 30 Second Skip button six time for an essentially instanteous three minute jump. If still at break, hit button once more – maybe again. When I’m back to the show, hit 10 second back button to cue up the show at the start following the break.

I MAY have a faint recollection of start of the first commercial and some point in the next-to-last or last Ad, but certainly no recollection of the vast mid-section.

sadstrongsad says:


Maybe they can make slow motion commercials with subtitles. so that way when you fast foward it going at the regular speed and the subtitles would be necessary for the lack of sound, of course this would pose a problem on non-TiVo people, but hey im just throwin ideas around.

And could be fun to watch commercials in slow motion, especially the Miller Light commercial with the two chicks fight. Great taste…less filling!

Mark says:

I think the key isn’t slow motion commercials to get people to slow down but instead fast-motion commercials that are viewable while skipping. If consumers want to spend less time watching advertising than advertisers need to figure out how to pacakge messaging into shorter content windows.

Here’s another one for you, when you press the ff button the screen shrinks to 1/4 screen and the balance of the screen becomes short form ads only playing while you are FF. If they know 2 mins of commercials will take XX seconds of FF this can be done. Heck if they put a STOP FF HERE signal it to start on time people will pay attention.

Moo says:

I, personally, think commercials are overall stupid and/or evil. Maybe not evil on the level of the apocolypse, but it seems that 80% of commercials are entirely based on sex or alcohol or drugs.

A few commercials are enjoyable, but I can’t think of what products they’re for so they must not be too effective. (What was that cat-rancher commercial for?) The aforementioned VW commercial is funny, but I spend the whole time feeling sad for Peter Stormare’s ( career.

Seems to me that if a product is good word gets out. Save us all time and money by not advertising so heavily which will make the product cheaper. I’m sure there is some heavily funded research out there to prove advertising is worth it, but to me it is generally a negative experience.

At the very least ban advertising on pharmaceuticals, lawyers, alcohol, deoderants, and maybe those tampon commercials.

Put the vision back into television.

Technopundit (user link) says:

TV Party

It’s silly to think there are ways to get people to watch more commercials.

And BTW, what’s wrong with the VCR? Unwilling to pay for Tivo, I set my VCR to record a few of my favorite programs. As it is, I often don’t watch everything I record. Tape ends, it gets rewound – that’s it.

As long as they keep selling VCR’s, I will have one.

Channel surfing is still a viable option, and because of it, viewers see more more than enough TV commercials than is worth talking about.

I automatically put rented DVD’s on “Play” a few minutes before I’m ready to begin viewing them. I rarely show up to a movie before the scheduled show time.

Note there are MILLIONS of commercials! If viewers are completely forced to watch more of them, they’ll simply turn off the TV, change stations, walk away, or find another way to boycott them.

Want to sell a cool gadget? How about an easy to use, slightly intelligent DVR that doesn’t require an accompanying monthly fee? Something between a Tivo and a VCR.

Get Hong Kong on the phone!

BadServo (user link) says:

Personally, the whole commercial aspect of TV watching is one of many factors that prompted me to make a PC-based DVR system. Using the fantastic “BeyondTV” porduct from Snapstream, the entire show is analyzed after recording. That allows the software to know when a commercial break begins or ends. That way, I can skip all teh ads with a single button press.

The technology isn’t perfect, as it can occational mark the beginning or end of a commercial break a bit too early or too late, but I’d say it’s about 95% accurate in my expirience.

Perry (user link) says:

DVR commericals

I have been a proud own of a DVR for many years and i have to say I DON’T remember commercials. I hit that fast forward button at 60X and they fly through commercial so fast i can tell the difference. I have gotten use to knowing how long to keep the fast forward on to get back to the program. Yes i over shoot once in awhile, but the six second rewind button is great for that. So i have to say i don’t remember commercials, they are just a blur.

Cap'n Jeff says:

No TV is good TV

Perhaps atypically, I am a college student who does not own a TV. Appalling, I know. I will admit that I watch Grey’s Anatomy once a week with my girlfriend, but that’s the only TV we watch. Our grades have never been higher, we’ve read more books, and we are in general happier than ever. I’m not saying that it’s all because we don’t watch TV, but it certainly could have something to do with it.

Anonymous Coward says:

This “alternative TV” thing that you guys are mentioning, Can i buy it at Best Buy or Circuit City for under $100? This Fast Forward of Television sounds like fun, I don’t know why everyone hasn’t already moved over to it. Or is it a certain TV that I buy which already has it built-in, like a Sony or Samsung. Thanks!!

Merlinsdad says:


I have a vcr that is at least 7 or 8 years old that will automatically mark commercials and fast forward through them on playback without me having to touch the remote. Makes a 5 hour Nascar event about 3 hours and almost never makes mistakes. Does this technology still exist in VCR’s (yes, it’s been that long) or did that get litigated back to the stone age by advertising special interests?

Mike says:

bull crap

this is pure BS. I have a Tivo and pay NO mind to the commercials. In case, no one noticed, you can fast forward in 3x speed, making it alomost impossible to see what going on the screen. all you have to do is wait until you see your show and then hit play it automatically backs it up and startsd a few secionds earlier than where you hit play. When I use it, for 24, for example, all I have to do it hit play when I see it return and I have it down now where it starts almost to the second, right where I want it.

I never watch commercials, I start watching my shows 30 minutes late or after they are over so I can skip the commercials and not be constantly markerted to by freakin moronic commercials, especially car commercials with their increased volume, yelling and screaming to get your attention…do those morons really think this works? Apparently not since the car makers are choking on their inventory. Serves then right for marketing to people like they are children.

Just Me says:


Heard a commercial for a national technical college on the radio the other day (yes, I remember the name, no, I won’t repeat it here). It struck me as funny that they repeated the phone number 5 or 6 times in a 30 second commercial. As it people who want to get a technical degree don’t know how to use the phone book, Google, Yahoo, 411, ….

Advertising people, listen to me! Don’t waste my time repeating things. Give me the info I need in order to make an informed decision. That includes the price! I probably won’t call you up or go to your web site just to find out the price. Or, if I do go the extra step and do your work for you, I’m not going to buy the darn thing if it costs too much. If you don’t give me the info I need in the commercial I’ll ignore your message.

Wizard Prang (user link) says:

Well said, Mike...

One of the main reasons that I got a TiVo was so that I could skip ads. The TiVo service more than pays for itself in the time saved in skipping through ads. I do not remember the ads. If TiVo start introducing skip-proof ads I will refuse to buy the product on principle.

I understand the advertising-based business model, but being subjected to ads on cable-only channels – which I pay (too much, IMO) for is something that I do not enjoy.

Memo: Public to content industry, give us what we want, when we want it, where we want it, how we want it. If you say “my way or the highway” do not be surprised if we walk away….

Penny Bradford says:

LOST in commercials......

I have been thinking about recording a show to find out how long a two hour movie really is…

AFTER you take out the commercials.

I only thought about it for a short amount of time because I figured, hey! somebody else must have already done this. So, low & behold, I am searching away (at least an hour so far, in between writing an email to Andy Rooney, yes in hopes he will complain for me) and I can’t find a thing! I’ve found;, which has a few counts of commercials on some shows, but not how long a show would actually be if it was commercial free. a list, that collects sterotyped messages targeting gender. and a forum discussing the ups and downs of cutting out commercial using DVRMSToolbox, at which seemed way too complicated & time consuming for me. Not only have I not found out approx. how long a two hour show like LOST would be without commercials, but I haven’t seen much talk about what to do about the increased frequency of commercials being played, compared to, oh let’s say 20 years ago. SO… what’s out there to help????

R3FL3CT says:

My mother used to mute the commercials when i was young, and used to tell her not to do it that i found them interesting. Well its kinda like the Movie Business i found. When your young you find anything interesting. By the time your older tho lets say 10 yrs. You figure out why your parents muted the Tee Vee. COMMERCIALS SUCK. Loud annoying money hungry embarrasments of human society. And a few that actually make you think and are somewhat worthwhile. As for the Movie business- Becomes alot like commericals too. Seen it before! Heard it before! more dramatic than before! Better than before! More than before! BLA BLA BLA. And i dont notice the commericals in fast forward. Might see a logo/price or two. But thats about it. I love you DVR. too bad mom passed away before she could enjoy this wonderful product.

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