Much DVR Content Never Gets Watched


The digital video recorder has empowered TV viewers as never before — but our eyes are bigger than our stomachs.

A whopping 41% of the content Americans record on their DVRs is never watched, according to a Motorola Mobility study. A key insight from the research is that people love the notion of being able to watch anything they want at any time, even if they don’t follow through.

Indeed, 72% of DVR users surveyed are “hoarders” who record an entire series to “collect the box set,” Motorola’s fourth Media Engagement Barometer study found.

Billions of hours of DVR recordings get zapped into thin air because users have run out of storage space. About 55% of U.S. respondents have deleted or moved content because of DVR storage limitations and 81% said that “caused frustration,” according to the survey.

Consumers “want to be firmly in control of the way they experience their videos, but they’re frustrated,” John Burke, senior vice president and general manager of Motorola’s Converged Solutions group, said. Arris Group is in the midst of acquiring Motorola Home from Google, with the $2.35 billion deal expected to close in Q2.

It’s worth pointing out that most TV viewing time across the globe (73%) is still live, especially for news. Plus, while DVRs are increasingly popular, they’re not ubiquitous: just 52% of pay TV households have one, according to a Leichtman Research Group poll conducted in September 2012. Worldwide, 29% of all weekly TV content consumed is on a DVR, and in the U.S. it’s slightly higher at 34%, according to the Motorola study.

In any event, irritation over DVR storage limits could spell opportunity for TV providers. Network DVR services, such as Cablevision Systems’ DVR Plus, can deliver virtually unlimited space — and, some have suggested, disable fast-forwarding of ads.

DirecTV, for one, is trying to capitalize on consumers’ maxed-out DVRs with its marketing campaign pushing the Genie, a DVR that has a Terabyte of space for up to 200 HD hours and can record up to five shows at once. The spots show a cable DVR with “0% space available,” spawning a gripe-fest between two people about “cable is worse than …” recounting absurdly annoying situations.

Meanwhile, the Motorola study also found that tablet owners are rabid “super users” of video content, although they’re in the minority with 27% tablet ownership in the U.S. For example, on average, tablet owners watch 6.7 hours of movies a week versus the average of 5.5 for non-tablet owners. In addition, 47% of tablet users use a service provider’s TV catch-up service compared with 31% who don’t have such a device.

Motorola contracted market-research firm Vanson Bourne to conduct the study, which surveyed 9,500 consumers in 17 countries in December 2012.


U.S. TV viewers don’t watch as much as 41% of the TV content stored on their digital video recorders.