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Personal Video Recorders Have "Crossed a Popularity Threshold" in America

In a front page article, The New York Times reports that personal video recorders have "crossed a popularity threshold" in American households calling into question the economics of commercial television. At issue is the ability to use the fast forward feature on devices from TiVo and SonicBlue to skip over most of the advertising content that underwrites the broadcast. This means that PVR users can watch a one hour recorded program in about 40 minutes.

Another issue that causes broadcasters and advertisers angst is time-shifting, where PVR users regularly watch shows that are supposed to be viewed on a specific evening at some more convenient time. This has technically been possible for decades, since the introduction of the Video Casette Recorder (VCR). But the PVR, a hard disk drive-based recorder with a computer generated user interface, makes high quality broadcast video recording absolutely effortless.

Dismissed until recently as too expensive and complex for the average consumer to set up, {PVRs} are now a fixture in more than a million United States households about 1 percent of the total a number expected to grow to 50 million over the next five years, according to Forrester Research....

"We've trained people that you can buy things at 3 in the morning in the nude on the Internet and make a call to anyone from anywhere on a cellphone, and the idea that CBS is going to determine when I watch 'CSI' flies in the face of that trend," said Josh Bernoff, an analyst with Forrester Research. "TV networks are going to have to figure out how to make money from a TV viewer that is not nailed to the chair waiting for the commercial to end."


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