This NYT article, about people (like me) who record TV shows (usually on DVRs, though I currently use a DVD recorder and timer) is from 2009, but was just brought to my attention:
Against almost every expectation, nearly half of all people watching delayed shows are still slouching on their couches watching messages about movies, cars and beer. According to Nielsen, 46 percent of viewers 18 to 49 years old for all four networks taken together are watching the commercials during playback, up slightly from last year. Why would people pass on the opportunity to skip through to the next chunk of program content?
The most basic reason, according to Brad Adgate, the senior vice president for research at Horizon Media, a media buying firm, is that the behavior that has underpinned television since its invention still persists to a larger degree than expected.
“It’s still a passive activity,” he said.
“Against almost every expectation” is a great way to put it. I would not have dreamed in a million years the percentage would be that high. What are these people thinking?!? Other than the obvious fact that watching commercials is annoying, they are a huge time suck. If you are like the average person and watch 35 hours of TV per week (though I suspect those who use DVRs watch even more), about 11 hours of that is commercials! Over a year’s time that’s nearly 600 hours of commercial viewing–as if you spent over three months out of every year watching commercials as a full time job, 40 hours per week.
Even if you wouldn’t rather have that extra time to do something else (read a book, have a conversation, play tennis, take a walk, play a game with your kids, surf the Internet, canoodle with your sweetheart), and you’d rather spend that same amount of time vegging out in front of the TV, skipping commercials would at least allow you to watch more shows in the same amount of time. Let’s say your 35 hours a week are composed of ten half hour shows (news or comedies) and thirty one hour shows (dramas, dramedies, newsmagazines). If you skip commercials, you could add a dozen more of the one hour shows and a half dozen more half hour shows in the same amount of time. It just strikes me as a no-brainer.
“No brainer”…hmm…it would sure be interesting to do an IQ test on the two groups (those who skip commercials and those who do not). As shocked as I am that there are so many people not skipping, It’d be even more surprising to me if there weren’t a significantly lower average IQ in the non-skipping group.
And that 46% is a very interesting proportion. Stunningly large though it is, it’s nevertheless still a minority. In a binary choice election, 46% is the mark of a soundly defeated loser. I have a vague, difficult to pin down feeling that a proportion like this would be difficult to maintain in society in a stable way. I just think eventually, the group that sits still for the commercials will decline to a more believable number (less than 20% and perhaps less than 10%). The NYT article says the number had actually increased from ’08 to ’09, though; could it actually be heading for the majority? I just can’t see it. As DVRs get more popular, it will become more frequent that friends or relatives with DVRs visit other DVR households. Surely the non-skippers will be met with incredulity from the skippers, and will be shamed into changing their ways (what counterargument could the non-skippers possibly mount?).
This might also be a generational thing. I can imagine the 35-49 portion of that group, those who have become used to watching commercials for decades, being set in their ways and not be as comfortable thinking of grabbing a remote and hitting a button when the commercials pop up. Although maybe young people find the ads entertaining, as in the Super Bowl? Who knows. I’m open to suggestions here as I still find this puzzling even after chewing on it for a while.