Poltrack: DVR tide ebbing

End of traditional TV ads seen

The growth of DVRs is slowing, CBS Corp. chief research officer David Poltrack said Monday, just before TiVo CEO Tom Rogers warned advertisers that there will be 60 million homes in the U.S. in four years that are equipped with ad-skipping DVRs.

Poltrack also told investors at the annual UBS Global Media & Communications Conference in New York that CBS has had growing success with the online streaming of its TV shows.

"The number of show streams this season is an unspecified multiple of last year, with growth every week," he said.

"This is incremental (viewing in addition) to TV, not cannibalizing," Poltrack added.

Discussing DVRs, the CBS research guru said their expansion into new households is "slowing down."

Penetration stands at about 21%, up from 9% last year, and could grow as high as the upper 20% range or maybe even 30% during the next year, he said.

DVR growth now tracks at about 0.4 percentage points every month, he said.

However, Poltrack said that at 30% penetration, such products usually find growth "challenging" and at 40%, they find it "very challenging."

He also argued that CBS has benefited from DVRs in its efforts to build momentum for new shows like "The Big Bang Theory."

Poltrack signaled that CBS' talks with cable and satellite TV about VOD offers are ongoing, saying they seem open to DVR alternatives. Comcast has been the most aggressive cable giant in developing VOD content offers.

At the same UBS conference, though, TiVo's Rogers said that with 20 million ad-skipping DVR households in the U.S. now and another 40 million coming in four years, the traditional television commercial is doomed.

"The current model isn't going to stay the way it is," he said. "It's a game-over issue for the media industry if they don't get their arms around this quickly."

Rogers was touting one of TiVo's solutions recently em┬Čbraced by NBC Universal whereby interested TiVo users can click an advertisement and be whisked away into a deeper infomercial, then return to programming without missing a beat.

He also said that TV viewers are, indeed, interested in seeing and hearing Internet video and music content on TV sets, the proof being that 70% of new TiVo customers hook up that feature "right out of the box."

"We have a lot more to do," he said, in terms of bringing more Internet content to TiVo boxes. The company so far has a limited number of online partners but is seeking more.

Along those lines, he called TiVo a "digital video retriever," rather than a recorder, whereby content can be searched for and played on TV screens via TiVo whether that content resides on television or the Internet.

Georg Szalai reported from New York; Paul Bond reported from Los Angeles.