A new survey by Nielsen Media Research says that while TV networks have observed that the number of people watchint their shows have gone down, this isn't really true. Nielsen says that if you take DVRs viewers into account the numbers jump back up:
Nielsen's findings only reflect one week's worth of data so far—between April 30 and May 6 of this year—but provide some insight into the habits of DVR users compared to the general population.
Among US households that have a DVR of some sort—approximately 17 percent—only 58 percent of prime-time TV content is watched at the time of broadcast. This is how viewership numbers are typically calculated, and so it would appear as if TV viewership had dropped alarmingly among these households. However, when Nielsen accounted for DVR playback within two days of a show's broadcast, that number went up to 92 percent, and within three days, 95 percent. At seven days past the time of broadcast, 100 percent of prime-time broadcast content had been watched either live or via time-shifted DVR playback in those households. This certainly comes as good news to the networks.
Commercial ad viewership increased when DVR viewing was accounted for as well. In homes with DVRs, ad viewership jumped 32 percent when shows were viewed within three days of live broadcast. Considering that viewership of TV shows in general jumped by 73 percent during that time period, however, it's clear that about half of all DVR users are happy to make use of their DVRs' ad-skipping abilities.