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Wednesday, 20 December 2006 19:08

DVD players finally surpass VCRs in the lounge room

The DVD player turned 10 this year, but it's only just surpassed the 30-year-old VHS video recorder in lounge rooms, according to Nielsen Media Research.

In the third quarter of 2006, 81.2 per cent of all US households owned a DVD player, compared to 79.2 per cent owning VCRs. In 1999 when Nielsen first started tracking DVD ownership in its Home Tech Report, DVD penetration was only 6.7 per cent - dwarfed by VCR ownership at 88.6 per cent.

The interesting thing here is that VCR ownership hasn't fallen that much, it's just that DVD player ownership has caught up. Despite all the talk of the digital revolution, four in every five US households still have a VCR.

It's because the two don't really compete with each other - DVD players might be better for watching movies, but you still turn to the VCR when you need to record your favourite show. What I really want to know is how many household have made the switch to DVD or hard drive-based recorders. Annoyingly Nielsen hasn't included this in its survey results, which says to me the numbers must be negligible. Perhaps such devices are counted as DVD players.

I found a PDF on the Copy Protection Technical Working Group's website that says US DVD recorder penetration was 40 per cent in 2006, but that sounds a little high to me. If it was that high, I think Nielsen would have mentioned it. If DVD recorder penetration really is a 40 per cent in the US, that means at least 20 per cent of all households have a DVD recorder and a VCR.

DVD recorders have been around for five years, so will they have reached 80 per cent penetration in another five years? I don't think so. The advantages of DVD players were obvious even to the non-tech savvy and there wasn't a format war to confuse the issue. The latest Nielsen report shows that most people are still happy with their VCR and I'd say the confusion of DVD and HDD recorders, PVRs, digital television and high definition means they're happy to sit on their VCRs for a little longer until the upgrade decision becomes idiot proof. If you're the tech-savvy type then the time is almost right to move to a HDD/DVD recorder - but the general public still has a long way to go and I'd say there's still life in the old VCR yet.

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