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Digital video recorders on fast-forward growth

Worldwide shipments of personal video recorders more than tripled in 2003 as the gadgets finally caught on with consumers, research released by In-Stat/MDR says.

Worldwide shipments of personal video recorders more than tripled in 2003 as the gadgets finally caught on with consumers, research released by In-Stat/MDR indicated on Thursday.

PVRs have built-in hard drives that let television viewers record shows and pause live programming. They have storage capacities ranging from 40GB to 160GB and can record roughly 40 to 160 hours of standard-definition TV programs.

Worldwide unit shipments of PVR products grew from 1.5 million in 2002 to 4.6 million in 2003, In-Stat/MDR said. The company expects that figure to hit 11 million in 2004.

Two factors driving growth are smooth integration of PVR capabilities into DVD players and recorders, and rising demand from satellite and cable TV operators for PVR-enabled set-top boxes.

"Many pay-TV service providers, especially in North America, are rolling out PVR products to increase subscriber revenues and to keep their current customers from defecting to competitive service providers," Mike Paxton, a senior analyst with In-Stat/MDR, said in a statement.

Combination DVD-PVR products have been especially popular in Japan, and the research firm expects that "a growing percentage of DVD recorders shipped worldwide over the next few years will incorporate PVR functionality." Combination DVD-PVR products and PVR-enabled satellite set-top boxes should account for almost 80 percent of all unit shipments in 2004, the firm predicted.

"The process is still ongoing, but more and more people understand it now than two or three years ago," Paxton said. "There's still a significant group of people who still don't understand what the benefits are, but we're getting past the early-adopter stage to mainstream viewers."