DVRs Give Cable a Lift


Once cable subscribers get a digital video recorder, they are less likely to drop cable for satellite, according to Scientific-Atlanta Inc.

The set-top vendor commissioned CENTRIS (Communications, Entertainment and Technology Research and Information Service) to analyze 100,000 consumer surveys between 2002 and 2003, and the firm found that DBS penetration in cable markets that had deployed DVRs was 2.5% less than in cable systems that hadn’t rolled out DVRs.

“It’s very encouraging for cable. It looks like DVR is a very exciting product to slow the growth of satellite in those markets,” said Scientific-Atlanta director of strategic planning and business development Dave Davies.

Davies said S-A plans to share the research this week with cable operators attending the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing Summit in Boston.


S-A wouldn’t reveal which cable systems Centris analyzed in its study. The company’s DVR customers include Time Warner Cable, Comcast Corp., Charter Communications Inc., Adelphia Communications Corp., Cox Communications Inc. and Canada’s Rogers Cable.

Similar to the race to sign high-speed data subscribers — in which researchers have found that consumers often stick with whichever technology they buy first, be it DSL from a telephone company or a cable modem — S-A’s research shows the battle to put DVRs in subscriber homes is key.

For their parts, both EchoStar Communications Corp. and DirecTV Inc. are aggressively marketing their own DVRs.

It takes DVR owners some time to fine-tune the equipment to record their favorite programs, which also may help reduce the number of DVR subscribers that would drop cable for satellite, or vice versa.

“Once you get a DVR and you have 40 hours of recorded shows on that DVR, to switch to another service provider’s DVR, you’re going to have to return that box and lose all the shows you recorded,” Davies said.

Improvements in the technology, such as the rollout of multi-room DVRs, which allow subscribers to record a program on a DVR in the living room and access it from a digital set-top in another space, could also help reduce churn.

S-A is field-testing a new multi-room DVR. EchoStar and DirecTV are also rolling out their own multi-room products.