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As digital video recorder (DVR) use has increased, so has time spent watching television – both throughout the day and during prime time – according to The Nielsen Company.

In DVR homes, television usage (live viewing plus DVR playback) for persons 18-49 was 3% higher at 9:00 PM and 5% higher between 11:00 PM and midnight in November 2007 than two years earlier, when penetration was very low, Nielsen said.

Nielsen accordingly speculates that as the number of DVR-owning households in the US population grows, DVR prime time viewing levels will likely rise as well.

The traditional prime time period (8-11 PM) is expanding as people create their own “personal television schedules” and push prime time as far back as midnight, the findings imply:

  • 11% of viewers age 18-49 in DVR homes are playing back recorded programming between 9 and 10 PM.
  • 7% are playing back programming between 11 PM and 12 AM.

Three distinct groups of DVR users, based on how much they time-shift, were identified by the study:

  • Heavy Shifters, who time-shift about half of their viewing. They are primarily middle-income women, age 18-49, who record nearly 26 hours of television a week.
  • Medium Shifters, who time-shift about one-third of their viewing. They watch somewhat more television than the average person.
  • Light Shifters, who time-shift about one-tenth of their viewing and…
    • Comprise nearly 70% of all persons in DVR households
    • Watch less television than the average viewer
    • Earn more than $100,000
    • Are the most likely to own a high definition TV set

Time-shifting is not evenly distributed among all program types, the study found. Live viewing is preferred for news, sports and movies, whereas general dramas such as House, Grey’s Anatomy and Heroes are often recorded and viewed later, accounting for one-third of all time-shifted content.

Talk shows like Oprah, soap operas like The Young and Restless, and reality television shows such as Survivor, The Biggest Loser and Dancing With the Stars are also heavily time-shifted, according to Nielsen.

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