With the growth of DVRs, video on demand (VOD), online video sites like Fancast and iTunes, it’s never been easier for consumers to watch TV shows on their own schedules. However, the concept of time-shifted viewing is not new. In fact, you may remember a device we used back in the 80s and 90s called the VCR. While half of VCR users let the clocks flash 12:00 constantly and only played rented tapes, the other half embraced time-shifting by recording TV shows to be watched at another time.
By 2003, VCR usage for both groups was beginning to change. In a research study conducted by CTAM, 54 percent of respondents stated they were recording TV shows to watch at another time less than they had previously. The most likely reasons were the shift from videotapes to DVDs, which didn’t allow people to record, and the introduction of set-top boxes, which made it more cumbersome to time-shift with a VCR.
Consumers were then introduced to an additional choice for time-shifting: the DVR. By 2004, about 19% of households were taking advantage of time-shifting. According to a Leichtman Research study, 16% of households were still using VCRs to tape shows, while the DVR was starting to gain ground with 3% penetration by 2004. Once the DVR was integrated into the set-top box, DVRs saw rapid growth and are now found in about 37% of all homes.
In addition, VOD and the Internet have emerged as new time-shifting options. Today, 76% of cable households state they have access to VOD from their cable company, with 61% using it, largely because the quantity and quality of VOD content has continued to improve. At Comcast, VOD service provides consumers with more than 10,000 choices every month, including more than 1,000 choices in HD available at anytime.
The fastest growing segment of time-shifting technologies is the Internet. Currently, about 65% of households have broadband and could access Internet video. While the vast majority of video watched on the Internet is still user-generated content, the number of people watching longer or full-length TV segments online is increasing. In Leichtman Research Group’s recent Emerging Video study, 24% of respondents stated that they watched some form of Internet video weekly, and of those that recently watched online video, 17% watched a recent TV show. That number is expected to rise in the coming years as more people consider this a viable option.
If you start to look at usage, a growing number of the same households are engaging in multiple forms of time-shifting. In fact, according to Leichtman, about 23% regularly use two or more types of time-shifting technologies, with about 58% of all respondents stating they regularly use at least one time-shifting technology. With this broad usage, we have probably already exceeded the regular VCR taping population. As content availability and ease of access increase, we could see this driving penetration even further into the segments that are less involved in television.
Interestingly, research shows that while the number of people using time-shifting technologies is growing, usage has a positive correlation to the amount of live TV they watch. According to the recent CTAM/Nielsen Television, Online, Mobile: A Deep Dive into the Three Screen Experience report, live TV, time-shifted and Internet viewing each increased by about an hour in the last year among people who used those technologies. Live TV continues to dominate with consumers watching 140 hours per month, compared to about only four hours of additional time-shifted viewing, including DVR and/or VOD content (about two hours) and Internet video (a little less than two hours).
That said, it’s clear that time-shifting has come a long way since the days of flashing-VCRs and will continue to find its way into more and more consumers’ homes in the years ahead.
(Note: Unless otherwise stated, the figures in this summary were made available from Leichtman Research Group).
[Paul Hockenbury is Executive Director of Research and Analysis at Comcast. He has been a member of the CTAM Research Committee since 1997 and received the TAMI award in 2008 for his support of the industry. In his spare time, he teaches Consumer Behavior and New Product Management in the Wharton Executive Training program]. He can be reached at Paul_Hockenbury@cable.comcast.com].