Online Video Replaces DVR

February 5, 2010

The habits of US visitors to online TV sites reveal that online TV-viewing acts as a replacement for DVR (digital video recorder) viewing, according to research from Nielsen.

Online Video – The New DVR?
The broader usage patterns suggest that online video is, for the most part, a replacement of DVR use, or used by those who do not have immediate access to TV. TV network content online is primarily used to catch up with programming, rather than as a replacement for TV viewing.

When asked for reasons they watch TV shows on the internet, 54% of respondents said because they forgot to watch a specific episode when it aired on TV. Another 47% said they are catching up on a current season of programming, 33% said they are catching up on a previous season, and 32% specifically said they forgot to record a show with their DVR or TiVo. Only the bottom three answers, another household member watching another program at the same time, and watching while at work or traveling, could be considered reasons that replace watching TV in the traditional manner.


Online TV Viewing Dominates Web Sessions

When an internet session involves viewing TV, the viewing of TV tends to dominate the session. Overall, 73% of a respondent’s internet session that involves TV viewing consists of TV viewing. That number climbs to 75% of men’s sessions and drops to 69% of women’s sessions. The 2-11 age group has its internet sessions least dominated by TV viewing (50%), with ages 65-plus devoting the second-least amount of time (59%). Respondents ages 25-34 devoted the most of their internet sessions that involved TV viewing to TV viewing (79%), barely ahead of 18-to-24-year-olds (78%).


Online TV Viewing is a Lonely Pastime

Online TV viewing is a mostly solitary activity, according to study results. A combined 84% of respondents never or rarely watch TV online with one or more other people.


Reused TV Ads Perform Best

Despite the efforts of digital advertising specialists to devise clever, quirky internet-only ads, online TV viewers seem to prefer repurposed TV ads, at least in the food and beverage category. In the areas of general recall, brand recall, message recall, and likeability, repurposed TV ads for food and beverage products came in first with respondents, followed by web original video ads and web original flash ads. Repurposed TV ads held the slimmest advantage in the likeability category.


Online Video, TV Viewers Have Purpose

Despite Nielsen’s findings, according to a research report from Knowledge Networks, online video and TV viewers have at least one similar habit. The report, “How People Use Video Navigation,” indicates that 44% of TV viewers and 56% of online video viewers engage in “purposeful viewing,” or going to watch with specific programs or content in mind.

Viewers Still Prefer Live TV

Eighty-six percent of respondents prefer watching TV on their television sets live, as opposed to using a DVR or on-demand feature, according to a recent Deloitte survey. Fewer than 10% said they prefer watching the same content online, though an increasing number are doing so. Potentially foreshadowing an increasingly central role for the TV, 65% of respondents would like to be able to easily connect their home TV to the internet so that they can view videos or downloaded content.

About the Survey:Nielsen collected online panel data of US visitors to online TV sites (,,,, or from January 4-February 4, 2010.

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