News

Cable Subs Want PVR

6/08/2003 8:00 PM Eastern

Personal-video-recorder deployment looked like a pretty clear-cut matter six months ago. Direct-broadcast satellite providers were all for it, sensing a point of differentiation against cable. Cable operators weren't, figuring video-on-demand would do just fine against DBS. And Comcast Corp. CEO Brian Roberts told a Western Show audience in California that PVR would not be on his company's radar screen for as far as he could see.

As cable-industry officials gather for their annual spring convention in Chicago this week, the tune has changed. Comcast is expected to give PVRs a trial somewhere this summer, using Samsung digital set-tops and Ucentric Systems Inc. software. But in other locations, according to published reports, the nation's largest system owner is already marketing PVRs. Elsewhere, Cox Communications Inc. and Time Warner Cable are rolling out PVRs in selected markets, and the take rate so far has been encouraging.

All three MSOs may be happy that they're whistling a different tune, and many others may wish to join the refrain, based on results from the latest Multichannel News
Consumer Poll. Almost a quarter of the 587 cable subscribers surveyed—24%—declared they would buy a PVR service or PVR-capable converter from their local operator if it was available for $9.95 a month.

More important, people of color may lead the charge in adopting PVRs, just as they are likely to take the lead in VOD and every other advanced service the cable industry is counting on for future growth, according to previous Multichannel News polls and surveys from other organizations. About 39% of African-American subscribers, and 32% of other minority customers, expressed desire for a PVR service.

Seven out of 10 subscribers responding said they didn't want to take the PVR option from their local system at this time; 6% were undecided.

Some 29% of PVR-adopting subscribers noted that they would use that option one or more times every day. Among subscribers ages 18-34, 38% were ready to use PVRs in this fashion. Another 20% said the option would be applied once a day. Almost a third of the group planned PVR usage two-to-five times a week, while 17% foresaw once-a-week usage.

Here are three words for anyone considering the absence of commercial-skipping functionality in the PVRs they'll offer: Don't go there. Nearly 48% of subscribers becoming PVR adopters not only anticipate wanting the feature—they say they'll always use it. And another third of the group — 33 percent — claimed they'd skip the messages often.