Peter Clark says there is an inherent problem with personal video recorders in that most people don't have time to watch all that they record (This day will come, February 28).
Thus, he claims, a PVR involves a cost for something most people do not gave time to use and will, most likely, remain the preserve of technology and TV aficionados.
Speaking as one of the time-pressed, Peter misses a fundamental point about the benefit of PVRs: when you only have a few spare hours a week for watching TV, you want to be sure that whatever you watch is something you'll enjoy, and you don't want to be stressed about having to be home at a particular time to do it.
Without a PVR, you're at the mercy of broadcast schedules or must be organised enough to check the TV guide in advance and set the video. With a PVR you can build up a library of recent programming to choose from, all recorded because it matches your interest without advance preparation on your part beyond a one-time-only 15 minute set-up of season passes.
Also, delaying viewing of live TV via a PVR recording, even by just 10 minutes while the remainder of the programme continues being recorded, lets you save time by skipping through programme credits, ads and even boring parts of programmes themselves, such as talk shows with a guest you don't like.
Being able to press pause while watching TV lets you deal with something pressing you've remembered, without the annoyance of missing out on any of a programme. It is for these reasons that timeshifting in PVR homes is so popular, typically representing 70% of all TV viewing among PVR owners, according to US research.
It is this swing towards time-shifted viewing in PVR homes that exacerbates the challenge for advertisers. As Peter points out, the level of ad-zapping among PVR users is at similar levels to that for viewers of programmes recorded by VCRs. But, in VCR households, the vast majority of TV viewing remains scheduled TV and, thus, the impact on the total number of TV ads seen is small.
However, for PVR homes the majority of viewing is time-shifted and, thus, ad-zapping affects a far greater proportion of TV exposure.
Eventually, PVRs will become commonplace and a more innovative approach to the use of TV as an advertising medium will be needed.
Interactive strategy director
Good to see a debate on what will, in time, be an important issue for advertisers, but I fear Peter Clark takes two facts and to come to a conclusion 180 degrees away from the clear one!
Of course people do not have enough time to do everything they want to, including watching TV. But that's exactly the strength of a PVR -it filters out the reality TV shows, bad US imports and soaps and leaves you with just the good bits pre-selected on a hard disk, from which you can then pick and choose as you wish.
Much goes unwatched, but so what? You watch the best bits instead of what happens to be on when you hit the couch. And, of course, a typical viewing hour can be fitted into 45 mins if you use a PVR to remove the ads -there has seldom been such a boom for the time-poor as a PVR.
The other point he makes is research shows PVR users skip ads about the same amount as VCR users viewing tapes. This is true, but the difference is that PVR uses view 90%+ of their TV as recordings, as opposed to 10% for VCR users. So the number of ads viewed by a PVR user is way, way down.
At the penetration levels of PVRs, advertisers have nothing to worry about and it is indeed the subscription which is holding them back. But Pace launches a subscription-free device this month and others will not be far behind.
Strategic development manager