Seven out of ten people with a digital video recorder say they could not live without it. They report that it has improved their enjoyment of television and say it makes for a happier home life. In a survey commissioned by technology provider NDS, users ranked a DVR as more essential than a dishwasher, although Italians rated it slightly less important than having a hairdryer.

Three quarters of digital video recorder owners said that they were now more likely to find something to watch when they view television. Nine out of ten American and eight out of ten British users surveyed said that having a digital video recorder has improved their enjoyment of television.

The survey was carried out by Consumer Analysis Group in July 2008, based on a sample of just over a thousand adults with a digital video recorder at home, using a mix of telephone, street and online questionnaires.

The methodology may be slightly suspect. Respondents were given a list of eight household items and asked to say which four had become a vital part of their lives: washing machine, microwave, hairdryer, dishwasher, coffee maker, blender, strimmer and digital video recorder. The DVR was placed in the top four, after washing machine and microwave. In the case of the Italians the hairdryer was also ranked above the DVR, claimed as indispensable by over eight out of ten women.

Note that the list did not include a refrigerator, oven, kettle, or other common household appliances, all of which are presumably considered essential aspects of modern life, or indeed a television, without which a digital video recorder is rather redundant. Nevertheless, one in four British respondents considered a strimmer essential in order to tend their lawn, compared to one in eight Americans.

The DVR was placed second in another list of items, with the mobile phone coming top, above radio or a landline, the other items being a home theatre system, games console, iPod or photo printer, but again no television.

“We commissioned this consumer survey to celebrate the milestone announcement that NDS technology now resides in over 13 million DVRs worldwide, making us the global leader in this market,” said Nigel Smith, the chief marketing officer of NDS. The company provides digital video recorder technology to 18 pay-television operators worldwide. “The survey results show just how fast the DVR has become an indispensable part of people’s lives in the UK, US, Italy and Australia. It’s one of those technologies that, once tried, has you wondering how you coped before.”

Interestingly, only around seven out of ten British or American users and only five out of ten Australian or Italian users considered that a digital video recorder was easier to use than a videocassette recorder. Only around three or four out of ten users said they hardly ever discovered that a programme did not record, although this rose to around six out of ten users in their twenties in Britain, declining by age. This suggests that there is still some way to go in terms of usability and reliability.

“At NDS we invest heavily in R&D to ensure that our technology is always ahead of the pack,” explained the NDS marketing executive. “Our next-generation DVR technologies, currently in development, will enhance the end user viewing experience still further.”

The NDS survey is interesting reading in terms of the qualitative difference that digital video recorders make to the enjoyment of television, confirming anecdotal evidence. The results of the survey are available in a full report on the NDS web site.