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Its official: people adore their DTRs/PVRs. Although the media doom-mongers predicted that DTRs would hail the death of TV advertising, we now have the benefit of hindsight (and indeed years’ worth of data to the contrary) that demonstrates that when households invest in a DTR, they actually watch more telly as a result. However, the data only scratches the surface because the relationship viewers have with their DTRs runs much deeper than the ability to fast-forward ads or time-shift viewing.
Thinkbox commissioned Work Research to qualitatively explore the relationship and emotional connection that DTR owners have with their boxes. Work explored the motivations for use, the perceived benefits to the user and the impact that the technology has on the viewers’ perceptions of advertising, all of which resulted in a fascinating body of insight that highlighted the level of love that people have for their DTRs.
A qualitative research project to explore the behaviours and attitudes of DTR owners by Work Research.
Background to the research
DTR usage is largely defined by the technology itself and the well-established behaviours they allow; from time-shifting, buffering and live pausing, to extending content, book-marking, series-linking and ad managing
Past research identified that the effect of DTRs varied, by channel and by genre. But the first samples were early adopters and exhibited an enthusiasm for the technology and using it and by definition many were in the first flush of ownership when usage levels are higher. Given the purely qualitative approach and the group dynamic, over-claim was also a problem.
The focus for this study
We know the behaviours, but what are the drivers for DTR users and what is the emotional context?
We know that take up is continuing, but how does it change their relationship with TV and with advertising?
What did we do? (Sample/ methodology)
14 Individual interviews with a mix of DTR brands and length of ownership plus viewing diaries, hard-drive exploration
Why is this research different?
This research has uncovered, for the 1st time, the emotional context of DTR usage: the motivations; the benefits and the evolving relationship with TV
It looked at four major themes: convenience, engagement, quality control and the commercial contract. At the core of all these is the viewer's ability to control their viewing.
The main findings
- People with DTRs get more out of their TV
- The DTR makes emotional commitment easier
- The DTR creates ultimate low risk TV experimentation environment
- There is a heightened experience of watching live TV
- DTRs allows viewers to indulge their interests
- Ultimately, DTR owners think they are watching better TV
- DTR owners have an enlightened view of advertising and the commercial contract
- Consumers are excited about Sky++, about future developments
People with DTRs get more out of their TV
Convenience: It's convenient and helps satisfy need states
- Helping me keep up with programmes
- Watching programmes that fit my mood
- Having something in the bank when nothing else is on
It helps with domestic harmony.
- In multi-person households, TV viewing requires a degree of compromise, but DTRs offer a 3rd way: record now and watch at a more convenient time
- For couples, there is evidence of cherry picking specifically for partners, 'gifting'.
It allows for idiosyncrasies: a recurring theme is the extent to which DTRs enliven TV's 'dead time'
The DTR makes emotional commitment easier
Engagement: It's easier to engage and be loyal to the programmes you like: for EXISTING series it takes out stress and strain of being 'there', the pressure of seeing every episode, the disappointment of missing out, the pain of setting the VHS, the last minute phone call to friends, piles of never watched VHSs, the expense of box sets. For NEW series it prevents accidental dropping and encourages long term sticking with a series, even if it's just a half hearted interest.
The overall enjoyment of TV is enhanced.
The DTR creates ultimate low risk TV experimentation environment
DTR usage isn't stopping experimentation - in many ways it encourages it, through the EPG and because a word of mouth recommendation is easy to act on
They also give the user the opportunity to rediscover and connect with old favourite genres and programmes
There is a heightened experience of watching live TV.
This is reserved for 'special' programmes which become mini events
Allows them to indulge their interests
Rationally, DTRs allow for more indulgence of personal tastes and occasional over-indulgence; using series link e.g. bingeing on 24. But at an emotional level, the DTR can be liberating (watch favourite programmes while other household members are away) and provides a deeper level of gratification - a heightened sense of special-ness and indulgence.
Ultimately, DTR owners think they are watching better TV
Quality control. Cherry picking is a key driver of DTR owner's increased engagement with TV. There is a more engaged attitude to selecting programming: more planning, more thought; significantly more interest and response to trailers and engagement even bleeds into partner's viewing.
Increased value percpetions. Sky+ softens the resentment of subscription fees and provides a neat resolution to the confusion of contradictory media economics
DTR owners have an enlightened view of advertising and the commercial contract
Controlling the ads. We already know DTR owners are not militant anti-commercial ad avoiders; Fast forwarding the ads does happen, just not every time; More prevalent where the breaks are longer and / or the ads are worse; Sponsorship bumpers are recalled and perceived as useful navigational tools but how does this affect their attitude to advertising?
A sense of quality control creates a 'give and take' relationship with ads. Whilst they do of course fast forward some ads, they also engage with some ads
Lots of evidence of spotting an ad and rewinding it
A greater appreciation of good ads
A greater appreciation of the timeliness of some advertising especially that seen on live TV: sales, films, trailers.
Renewed interest in relevant ads - and the relevance of advertising per se
Rebalancing the commercial contract. Whilst the commercial contract is in a state of flux, DTR owners seem to be finding a more balanced position
Consumers are often quick to wish for an ad-free media world. However DTR owners seem to be more circumspect: all acknowledge the funding role played in advertising; all reject the notion of paying more for ad free TV and they seem more aware of the threat posed by their own fast forwarding
Getting more out of the ads. Overall, very positive to new advertising delivery methods on DTRs
1. green button advertising (when you see a green button on an advert (live or recorded) if you then press the green button an extended version of the ad will be put straight on to your planner
- Seen as useful, in much the same way as they see recording programmes as useful
- Convenience of watching at a later, more expedient time
- Most anticipate using this for 'in market' moments
- Loans, mortgages, new purchases (cars, white goods), holidays
- And for high interest categories
- Cars, holidays, new technology
2. ads on the planner; by expressing a preference for certain brands or products Sky could put a range of ads direct on to your planner
- Very warm to relevance of 'pull' advertising model
- Extends control benefit of a DTR to the advertising
- And to range idea
- An instant cross section of the market
- Most anticipate increased richness
- Longer copy ads, more detail, comparisons
- Usage predicted in competitive markets
- Or high interest markets
- Cars, new technology
Consumers are excited about Sky++, about future developments
Though a lot of their ideas are rooted very firmly in rational developments
All look forward to more space and more potential
For the more sophisticated (with mobile devices) they anticipate being able to download from their DTR to their ipod
Either another Sky+ box or a networked Sky+ system that records on one box and can be played back on another
What else did we find?
What kind of TV viewers are they?
Whilst this is a qualitative sample, some themes emerged
Our sample were time squeezed, ambitious, professionally minded, aspirational, sensible people
Very active social lives - sports, clubs, communities
Cultural, topical, quality seekers (tasteful, stylish)
Empowered and Astute Consumers - degree of tech savviness, deal hunters but avoid stings
Not overt early adopters or technology wizards
Keep up with the Joneses…. 2nd or 3rd to get the DTR
They were not heavy TV viewers, and TV was rarely used as a filler. There was little evidence of indiscriminate TV viewing. Being discerning, quality drives TV viewing.
Lifestage is a key dynamic.
SINGLES were the ultimate selfish viewers and we saw some very idiosyncratic and experimental DTR usage
For COUPLES, the DTR enabled compromise for shared viewing, but also allowed them to indulge personal viewing
For the FAMILY, the Kids are in control, both of the Box itself and key times of the week. Typically mum is removed and dad has limited access and space. He is the first to be 'deleted'
Length of ownership
once the first three months of experimental viewing are over, there is surprisingly very little difference between how they view at 3 months and 3 years on.
While DTR's do change things, patterns are set very quickly and TV viewing requirements ultimately stay the same
DTR usage close up: (live vs recorded)
As expected, live and recorded viewing various across genres, but amongst this there were some interesting discoveries: although sport is generally watched live, the DTR satisified the need to catch up with long sport events and also enabled them to catch up with non-core sports which they want to maintain an interest in. Series recording allowed people to indulge in classic cherry picking behaviour. For shift workers and retired viewers, daytime hours are the time to catch up on other recorded content - mainly last night's soaps.
DTRs - A Love Story
Research has uncovered, for the first time, the emotional context of Digital Television Recorder (DTR) usage: viewer motivations; the benefits they get from their DTRs/ PVRs: the evolving relationship they have with TV and the commercial contract between viewers and advertisers. A love story sits at the heart of this fascinating piece of research.