More than 75% of owners of digital video recorders claim to always or almost always fast forward through advertisements. The latest research by Ofcom, the communications regulator in the United Kingdom, confirms anecdotal accounts, suggesting that skipping commercials is much more popular than the television industry tends to admit.

The survey was commissioned by Ofcom, which has no vested interest in the results, unlike some industry research which has suggested that fast-forwarding through commercials is less prevalent.

Digital video recorders are more likely to be owned by households with a higher income or with children. In the UK, 28% of multichannel homes in the AB socioeconomic group own a digital video recorder, as do 24% of multichannel homes with children.

Over 40% of adults with a digital video recorder said they use it to record programmes to watch them later at least once a week. Over half of them said they watch all the programmes they record.

When asked about their usage of a digital video recorder, 40% of respondents claimed to fast forward through adverts regularly, while 58% have ever done so. Some 30% say the have deliberately started watching a programme after its scheduled start time in order to skip through adverts, while 18% say they have done this a least once.

However, when specifically asked whether they fast-forward through adverts, 78% claimed that they did so. Assuming that the actual figure is somewhere between 40% and 78%, it is evident that a significant proportion of owners of digital video recorders are limited the number of adverts they are viewing.

This is consistent with anecdotal evidence reported to informitv, with many users claiming that they simply no longer watch commercials. Such self-reported claims must be treated with some caution, as in many cases it appears they do still watch some commercials, and are aware of high-profile campaigns.

A London Business School project, part-funded by Ofcom, video recorded the actual viewing behaviour or 22 individuals who owned a digital video recorder back in 2005. The study found that only 30% of advertisements were fast-forwarded, and all but two of the respondents claimed a much higher proportion of their viewing was time-shifted than was actually observed.

Given the varying results, and the significance to the main business model of the television industry, Ofcom concludes that further research in this area is required to give a robust and in-depth understanding of the effect of time-shifted viewing on advertising consumption.

The survey on digital video recorder usage is contained in the annual Communications Market Report from Ofcom. Containing a wealth of very readable research and data on the United Kingdom communications market, it is available as a free download from the Ofcom web site.