Survey: Moms Skip Ads on DVRs

NEW YORK Despite redoubling their efforts, TV networks have much to do to entice viewers to stick around and watch commercials, according to new research from MindShare.

Keeping eyeballs on the set is more important than ever for cable and broadcast nets now that commercial ratings are the coin of the realm. But there’s still much room for improvement.

In a MindShare survey focusing on American mothers, 91 percent reported that they do not watch commercials when viewing recorded programming via DVRs. (In contrast, network estimates of viewers skipping played back ads generally range between 50-60 percent.)

The new MindShare study, which took nearly a year to complete, offers a comprehensive look at the media habits of mothers. The effort blends qualitative and quantitative research, including an online survey of 600 mothers conducted by marketing research firm Lightspeed in June 2007 that covered stay-at-home, part-time and full-time working moms between the ages of 18 to 54. All subjects had at least one child in their household under age of 18.

Ken Habarta, associate insights director, MindShare Insights, noted this key finding: “[Moms] have definite ‘me time’ areas where they are looking to be most relaxed and open to messaging and that would in the early mornings and late evenings.”

More than half of those polled, 56 percent, said their “me time,” or personal downtime, was most likely to occur in the late evening, while 18 percent cited early morning. However, as kids grew older, so did the percentage of moms citing morning as  their preferred me-time period. Thus, 25 percent of women with older kids 13-17 cited early mornings as the part of the day when they are most likely to have time to themselves.

The top me-time activity, according to the study, was reading, followed by surfing the Web and watching TV. 

Among DVR users, the most commonly recorded program genre is movies (71 percent), followed by children’s shows (54 percent) and dramas (31 percent).

Video-on-demand remains an emerging technology for mothers, according to the study, which reports that only 23 percent of those polled use VOD.

For moms with kids under 2 years old, word of mouth was the most popular form of “entertainment media,” with almost 80 percent of those responding rating it highest. TV was second (75 percent) and e-mail was third (73 percent). For moms with kids age 3 or older, TV was the rated entertainment media, while e-mail and word of mouth followed.

Across all segments, online media is heavily integrated into moms’ lifestyles, according to the study, which found that three of the top five sources for information are online-based. These were: Internet news and research (ranked first); e-mail (third) and Internet transactions (fifth). Rounding out the top five: talking to friends and family (second) and daily newspaper (fourth).

One of the biggest surprises to come out of the survey, said Habarta, was that non-working mothers reported the highest levels of e-mail, general research and transactions, while part-time working moms reported the least amount of usage. Conventional wisdom, he said, is that working moms “who are around computers” would tend to access the Web more, but that turned out not to be the case.

Another surprise: Moms play online games. A full 10 percent of those polled are regular gamers and about one-third of the gamer moms said they play daily.

About 60 percent of all respondents said they e-mailed “very often,” more than twice as much as the 28 percent of those who admitted to watching TV frequently.

Full-time working mothers are the heaviest users of cell phones (28 percent), while part-time working moms are the lightest users (20 percent).

Interestingly, Habarta said, part-time working moms reported feeling “most under stress” in their daily lives, balancing work and family life.