New study contradicts threat of PVRs

Contrary to anecdotal evidence, most television viewing in UK homes with personal video recorders (PVRs) is still live and viewers still respond to TV ads. That's the conclusion of a recent study on PVR usage in the UK, looking at actual rather than claimed viewer behaviour.

Conducted by a research consortium comprising research group ACB, London Business School, media agency Initiative, Ofcom, ITV, Channel 4 and Five, the study followed 23 people in eight homes over several weeks. Early results suggest the majority of viewing in PVR homes is live, not time-shifted, and that while most commercials in time-shifted viewing are fast-forwarded, viewers continue to pay attention to them.

London Business School's Patrick Barwise said: "These results show the importance of measuring actual, rather than claimed, behaviour. People's self-perception is that they time-shift a lot and always fast-forward through the commercials. The reality is very different, more complex, and much less threatening for the future of TV advertising".

Initiative's Sue Moseley said the study showed how consumers' behaviour is changing. "While new technology brings the opportunity for greater on-demand media consumption, TV continues to have a significant influence on peoples' lives and therefore retains an important communication role for many brands."

Ofcom strategy manager Mark Bunting added: "This research suggests that the impact of PVRs on viewing of commercials may not be as extreme as some had previously thought. Broadcasters undoubtedly face many challenges in this highly dynamic market but traditional scheduled TV will be around for a long time yet."

Full results from the study will be unveiled at a conference at London Business School on June 1.

Last year Amstrad chairman Sir Alan Sugar sounded the death knell for television advertising. Sugar said he had owned a PVR for a year, mostly so he could skip ads. "I haven't watched an ad spot for more than a year now. Everybody is going to be doing the same soon. So in my view, advertising has had it, on television," said Sugar.