Can Online Video Cure DVR Commercial Skipping?

NEW YORK Web video might get more DVR owners to see commercials, although viewers say they don’t pay much attention to those ads.

A new study conducted by Google’s DoubleClick Performics division confirmed that DVR owners watch more television but fewer commercials. However, the survey also found that many DVR owners are watching TV programs online — but aren’t paying much attention to ads in that venue, either.

DVR owners for the most part said they ignore commercials on TV and the Web. About 35 percent said they pay attention occasionally (or more often) when watching ads on TV. That number falls to 9 percent for spots viewed online. In fact, 38 percent said they pay less attention to the online ads.

Performics found that half of all DVR owners had watched at least one TV program online. About 22 percent said they would watch more programming online where commercials, though typically fewer, cannot be fast-forwarded.

The company surveyed 500 consumers online in March. The sample has a margin of error slightly over 4 percent.

The TV industry often touts the fact that DVR owners watch more TV than those with only “live” programming. Yet DVR viewers frequently skip the commercials. Over 50 percent of respondents said they “always” fast-forward through commercials, and another 36 percent said they skip them at least three-quarters of the time. Fully 85 percent of respondents said they watch fewer commercials since they got their DVRs.

Stuart Larkins, svp of search at DoubleClick Performics, said the study reinforces the company’s contention that its Fortune 500 clients should reevaluate their marketing mix.

“We’re trying to get into the consumer’s mind and figure out what the future is going to look like,” he said. “The Holy Grail of all advertising is what the true media mix is and how it’s going to change tomorrow.”

Yet new forms of advertising would not make much of an impression on viewers, at least by their own assessment. While 42 percent said TV ads had the most impression, just 3 percent said the same about Web banners and search links.

Larkins noted that search scores poorly because most consumers still don’t know up to half of the links among search-results pages are advertisements.

Performics found scattered use of the Web for viewing TV programs. In the past two years, many network TV programs have moved online. (Note NBC Universal and News Corp.’s launch of Hulu in late March.) Thus far, DVR owners have only sampled such fare.

While about half have viewed a program on the Web, just 8 percent said they had done it monthly and 4 percent weekly. The primary reason given for watching a show online was missing its live presentation.