This study analyzes the patterns and motives for VCR usage among undergraduate students at a state university. A 27-item survey instrument was administered to 139 students. The results revealed that most undergraduate students use VCRs more than two hours per week and the motives for VCR usage are: to watch movies; movie ownership; to view favorite taped shows; control and convenience; to skip commercials; and for information and education. Suggestions for further research are offered.
Since its introduction in the late 1970s, the video cassette recorder (VCR) has been considered the most powerful communications technology to shift control of television viewing time to the viewer. The shifts in control and the relative affordability of this technology have increased VCR popularity and penetration in U.S. households. For example, findings from research assessing the impact of cable and VCR indicate that between 1986 and 1990 household VCR penetration increased, dramatically, from 36% to 69.7% (Krugman & Rust, 1993). Similarly, analysis of Nielsen's annual report for the year 1996 found that 82.2% of U.S. households currently own at least one VCR (Television Bureau of Advertising, 1997). And, by 1997 almost 90% of American homes were equipped with VCRs (Campbell, 1998, p. 138).
The popularity of VCR has influenced research that sought to determine the motives and perceived effect of VCR usage (Rubin, 1983; Rubin & Bantz, 1987; Rubin & Rubin, 1989). Briefly, some VCR owners report that the technology empowers them to record, playback television programs, and to skip commercials (Levy, 1987); others say they use it to substitute network or cable programs with rented or purchased movies (Levy, 1983; Rubin & Bantz, 1987).
While these studies focus on what we characterize as the typical, or "generic," VCR owners who regularly view television, one group that is least studied in this regards is college students. In a paper presented at the annual meeting of the Speech Communication Association in San Diego, Porter and Sapp (1996) argued that college students have not been fully explored because their viewing habits and behaviors are not easily categorized for research of this nature. Similarly, Rubin and Bantz (1987) identify a paucity in the research literature on VCR usage as an informational and educational tool, a result of lack of research attention in this area.
Our study seeks to examine these issues so as to provide data that would help determine the amount and level of VCR penetration in the households of college students, the frequency of VCR usage, and the underlining motives for using the technology.
In studying this subject, we recognize that college students are generally a special "breed" of television viewers because their busy class work schedule may not afford them the opportunity to watch excessive amounts of television. Our contention is supported by Porter and Sapp (1996) who found that 76% of college students in their sample watched less than two hours of television per day as compared to seven hours of average daily per-household hours of television use in the United States (Biagi, 1998, p. 157). While students may not consume television programming as much as the general public, we believe it is important to study and understand a segment of the population that is least studied by researchers in this area (Sapp, 1996; Rubin & Bantz, 1987). We hope to add to the literature by providing data about the penetration of VCR and its usage among college students.
Our method of research consisted of a 27-item survey instrument that was administered to 150 undergraduate students at a state university in California over a two-day period in February 1998. The survey items were categorized into two sections. The first section solicited demographic information about the respondent. The second section, which comprised of 18 items, sought to determine the respondent's motives for using the VCR. …