The statistics were pulled from MRI's spring 2006 data from the Study of the American Consumer, in which 26,000 U.S. adults were personally interviewed on their media use and product consumption as well as their lifestyles and attitudes. DVR consumer information was included for the first time in fall 2005, making this the first chance for comparison. The number of households that use DVRs should continue to rise as more and more outlets offer the devices.
"Satellite companies and cable operators are offering DVRs, making it affordable and easy," said Brad Adgate, senior VP-director of research for Horizon Media. "All prognostications indicate penetration is going to increase for the upcoming few years."
Plaything of the affluent
The study also found that while the number of DVR consumers is increasing, the device remains a plaything of the more affluent. Households with DVRs are 116% more likely than the general population to have average incomes exceeding $150,000. Adults in DVR households are also 81% more likely to be heavy internet users and tend to be heavier readers of magazines and newspapers.
MRI is one of many companies trying to get their fingers on the pulse of DVR usage, which Nielsen Media Research estimates is at 7.1% and should rise to 12% by the end of the year. Earlier this week TiVo announced the launch of its Audience Research and Measurement division, which will offer second-by-second data on DVR-based ad viewing. But it is Nielson that will be the "gatekeeper" of such behavioral patterns as usage and time shifting, Mr. Adgate said, because it is the "currency" of the industry. Nielson announced earlier this month it will offer minute-by-minute ratings for commercials.
"As [DVR] penetration increases, becomes more mainstream and starts to reach a critical mass, I think the information is going to be more beneficial," Mr. Adgate said. "Right now it's getting there, but it's still somewhat sketchy."
Self-reporting less accurate
Alan Wurtzel, president-research at NBC Universal, is especially wary of reports, such as those done by MRI, that rely on participants to recall their behaviors. Self-reporting, he said, is notoriously less accurate than passive measurement. "What people think they do and what they actually do is very, very different," he said.
Mr. Wurtzel said one of MRI's findings did not match what Nielsen had found, pointing to the difficulty of figuring out just what is happening in this small but increasingly influential market. MRI data show DVR households tend to watch less TV than non-DVR households. But a Nielsen measurement called people using television -- or PUT, which measures how many are tuning in as a percentage of a total sample -- indicated that people in DVR households watched more TV. In March, the last month for which Mr. Wurtzel crunched numbers, total U.S. prime-time PUT was 37.9%. For DVR households that number rose to 39.43%.
"We ought to know the ruler is accurate," he said. "If Nielsen shows us [DVR users watch less], I'd buy it."
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Abbey Klaassen contributed to this report.