DVR Usage Increasing Among Television Viewers

By: Zach Walton - February 29, 2012

As television and devices that take advantage of our screen time continue to evolve, so does our utter obsession with using TV grow.

Nielsen posted on its blog a study the group recently conducted that looked at what Americans have been using their TVs for in the past six years.

To preface the study, Nielsen shows how TV usage has changed over the past 50 years. In 1960, only seven percent of all households received cable. In 1990, 56 percent received cable and 66 percent owned a VCR. In 2006, 89 percent of TV was viewed live and DVR usage only accounted for 1.6 percent of our TV time.

Things have changed pretty dramatically over the past five years. Today, 98 percent of American homes own a TV and have some kind of device (i.e. DVR, game console, DVD player) attached to the television. The amount of live television content being viewed has dropped to 85 percent while DVR usage accounts for eight percent of our TV time now.

Nielsen says that of three major devices that we connect to our TVs, the DVR gets the most use. While the amount of live TV content being watched may have dropped, it doesn’t mean people are watching less television. In fact, the time a person spent watching TV content increased 19 minutes year-over-year in the first four weeks of 2011.

If the DVR is so important to our watching habits, who is driving it? It would appear that females aged 18 to 54 use the DVR the most by devoting 10 percent of their viewing time to the DVR.

It would seem that the lowly DVD player is on its way out as less and less people use them. What has seen an increase is the game console with 3.9 percent of TV time being devoted to them. The increase in game console usage is being driven by teens who devote 11 percent of their TV time to using a game console.

It’s important to remember, however, that game consoles simply replaced the DVD player. With services like Netflix and Hulu as well as its ability to play DVDs natively, it only makes sense for dedicated DVD player usage to drop.

For those wanting to get into the nitty gritty of demographics, Nielsen has you covered. Asian Americans spent the least amount of time watching television in 2011. They did, however, see the biggest increase in viewing from 2010. In contrast, African-Americans and Hispanics spent less time watching TV in 2011 compared to the previous year.

Asian-Americans spent the least amount of time watching live television, but made up for it by devoting the most time to DVR and DVD use. Hispanic homes were found to use gaming systems the most while African-American homes used DVD players the most.

Here’s an image that breaks down TV usage among age groups:

DVR Usage Television Viewers

I think I’m mostly surprised by the fact that people in my age group were still using VCRs in 2011. I keep around an old Betamax player for kicks, but I never actually use it.

While traditional TV is still clearly dominating American viewing habits, it’s clear that it’s beginning to lose its lead. The rise of the DVR and game consoles with streaming technology are cutting into its market.

All of this could explain why cable companies want to encrypt their signals. They don’t want to lose any more business to these services or new services like Boxee.

About the Author

Zach WaltonZach Walton is a Writer for WebProNews. He specializes in gaming and technology. Follow him on Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, and Google+ +Zach Walton

View all posts by Zach Walton
  • Kathy

    These are very interesting figures, but aren’t too surprising considering that most people want to watch their favorite shows and video content on their own time. I know that my husband spends a lot of time in front of the TV playing video games and this time only increases every time a new game releases. We both spend time watching video content through our TV service, DISH, to watch some live TV, a lot of DVR recordings and on demand content. I know that the amount of hours that I spend watching the DVR will increase soon once DISH releases their whole-home DVR system, the Hopper. Often times there are several shows that I want to watch, but because they air at the same time, I have to choose what will record. Once we upgrade to the Hopper, we’re going to utilize the Prime Time Anytime feature because it will record primetime content from the big 4 networks, CBS, NBC, FOX, and ABC for up to 8 days. I’ll soon have access to all of the shows I want to watch from primetime on my DVR, which in turn will increase my TV time. Since I work for DISH, I know that they help their subscribers to utilize the DVR to increase satisfaction in video content. It’s true that nothing beats the ability to watch video content on our own time and it’s a lot less space consuming than collecting DVDs.

  • Allen

    What’s interesting, Kathy, is that my wife and I were two of the first Dish employees in line to get a Hopper. We too struggled with DVR timer conflicts until our Hopper was installed, and now we constantly watch recordings through our PrimeTime Anytime function. I’m sure you’ve heard that Dish just released the Auto Hop feature so that we can now choose to watch our PrimeTime Anytime recordings without the commercials. On an average one-hour episode, we’re able to save about 20 minutes by choosing this commercial-free option. I haven’t noticed that we spend more time watching TV than before, but I can say that we’re able to fit more shows into about the same amount of time.

  • Chris Garcia

    Why don’t CBS, FOX, and NBC execs want consumers to enjoy commercial-free TV? It’s what we want! I’m a customer and employee of Dish, and I think Auto Hop is great because you can easily watch commercial-free TV. A well known consumer advocacy group, Public Knowledge, agrees that people should have the right to control how they watch TV. They’re taking a stand for consumers by creating a petition that tells CBS, FOX, and NBC media to keep their hands out of your living room and DVR. Sign their petition to keep control of how you watch TV