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Thursday, January 04, 2007

PVR pickup

BSkyB announced that their Sky+ PVR system has more than 2 million customers, which is just under 25% of its customer base of 8.2m. PVR is definitely a technology that is going to cross the chasm in 2007 into mainstream adoption. Well, at least for Sky viewers.

The beauty of the Sky+ system is that most of the non-nerds I speak to aren’t aware of the technology behind it or more importantly don’t seem to be aware that ntl and Freeview have equivalent products. It is basically magic that makes recording and viewing programmes an absolute dream, so much so that it actually seems to encourage recording of programmes. Nearly everyone, I speak to say they record much, much more than in the video recorder era and everyone skips the ads (or goes and makes a cuppa)

Some of the stats released by Sky are absolutely terrifying for non-subscription based channels.
Across all channels, time-shifting accounts for an average of 12.2% of total viewing through Sky+ boxes.

Drama is the genre of programming most frequently recorded by Sky+ customers, accounting for 39.3% of all time-shifted viewing. Other popular genres are documentaries (14.9%), entertainment (13.0%) and movies (9.5%). In contrast, some genres of content remain at their most popular when consumed live. News and weather account for just 0.6% of time-shifted viewing by Sky+ viewers, while current affairs programmes account for 1.2%. (Source: Sky View)

It will be interesting to see if people start buying PVR capabilities with their freeview tuners. The irony of the situation is that I suspect that a lot of the digital refuseniks would actually be the biggest beneficiaries of a simpler way to record and playback programmes, but with no-one to promote the capabilities on the freeview platform and more importantly no-one to provide a subsidy, PVR will remain a “mistaken” differentiator for Sky with the great British public.

A little known secret is that nearly every home in the UK (around 25m) has a video recorder with an in-built analogue tuner and these will not work (without an adapter) at the time of the digital switchover. When this information becomes widely known, will it kick start the freeview PVR market, annoy the refuseniks even more or just highlight the long tail of apathy towards the TV market in the UK?

Interestingly, ntl/Telewest do not seem to release subscriber figures for its PVR service or promote it at anywhere near the level of Sky+. The new BT V-box also contains PVR functionality.

The various Video-on-demand services which are in the "early-adopter" phase of uptake will attract the publicity in 2007, but the device/service that will do most damage to the advertising funded TV business model is Sky+.