Study finds commercial-skipping DVRs don't affect purchases, 'TiVo effect' may not exist

Two years back, consumer research told us the vast majority of DVR users skipped commercials; now, statisticians at Duke University say that's not the case. More importantly, even those who do hit that oh-so-tempting skip button aren't necessarily spending less on advertised products as a result. Pulling data from over 1,200 TiVo boxes over the course of three years, Professor Carl Mela and colleagues found that a staggering 95 percent of television was watched live instead of recorded, giving viewers no opportunity to skip, and even when there was an opportunity, users took it only 6.5 percent of the time.

Moreover, every attempt the researchers made to find a "TiVo effect" failed -- comparing those who had DVRs with those who didn't, they found no significant difference in the amount TV watchers spent on nine different goods (including cleaning and grooming products) advertised. This could be for a variety of reasons -- perhaps advertising doesn't work, period, or perhaps those without DVRs "skipped" commercials simply by walking out of the room -- but no matter the reason, it seems these days television advertisers don't have quite so much to fear.

Update: To address one of the comments below, the 1,200+ TiVos measured in the study were given out to participants free of charge, which researchers admitted might skew the results. However, comparing usage patterns of the participants to TiVo's own national usage statistics, Duke scholars actually found them similar.