Today's New York Times carried an article about DVR fast forwarding containing numbers that surprised even me:
It turns out that a lot of people with digital video recorders are not fast-forwarding and time-shifting as much as advertisers feared. According to new data released yesterday by the Nielsen Company, people who own digital video recorders, or DVRs, still watch, on average, two-thirds of the ads.
Only 1/3 of DVR owners skip the ads? Are there a lot of DVR owners that don't know how to use the remote?
Digging deeper into the article, the 1/3 number is actually an average across all TV viewing by DVR owners, including an interesting stat: average DVR owners watch 50% of their TV live. When you take out the live TV numbers, the 1/3 that skip ads jumps to 60 percent which still feels low.
They don't mention if the owner pool is strictly TiVo, strictly cable-company DVRs, or a mixture of both, but I would bet that among DVR owners that paid for their hardware (like TiVo owners), the number that watch commercials is lower than average. If someone loves TV (and/or hates ads) enough that they plunk down $300+ dollars for a TiVo box, chances are, they're not going to waste their investment watching ads, whereas I bet most people with cable company DVRs are watching a lot of live TV, and might not get the hang of the remote/UI provided with generic TV recorders.
Personally, I might watch 1 in 10 or 1 in 20 commercials that go by, if something catches my eye, and I've found that friends and family with DVRs follow similar patterns, so these Neilsen numbers published in the NYT today seem a bit optimistic.