29 Percent Of Television Watching Is Time-Shifted

The first number Variety’s reporting out of a new study by Motorola is the one getting all the headlines, that 41 percent of the content on DVRs never gets watched by their American users:

A new study by Motorola Mobility claims that 41% of the content recorded on DVRs in the United States is never watched and deleted. Worldwide, that stat is lower, at around 36%. Still that’s a significant number as networks increasingly want timeshifted viewing through DVRs, VOD and web-streaming platforms to be counted as part of Nielsen’s Live-plus-7 ratings measurement — or viewing captured within seven days of a program’s premiere telecast — when they broker deals with advertisers. At the start of the fall TV season, 46% of U.S. homes had a DVR, up 30% over the previous year…The U.S. has the highest weekly TV consumption at 23 hours of TV and six hours of movies watched, while Sweden and Japan have the lowest at 15 hours and two hours, respectively, the study found. Worldwide, 29% of weekly TV viewing is recorded content, with 76% of those surveyed saying they watch news broadcasts live.

But it’s that second-to-last number that’s really important. And the critical question here is how long the shift is: is all of that 29 percent happening in the three days after episodes air? Seven days? Longer? Whatever the answer, if almost a third of television viewing is happening on DVRs, that’s an enormous figure, and it’s a huge argument for moving out the window of recorded watching that’s being measured in the Nielsen ratings. The fact that 41 percent of recorded content isn’t being watched doesn’t suggest that Nielsen ratings shouldn’t expand to +7—just the reverse. They suggest how much intention there is to watch television in a time-shifted way. That 29 percent seems like a number that’s likely to grow, rather than to shrink, particularly as long as networks are scheduling shows with unpredictable gaps in between episodes.