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October 13, 2008

DVRs boost ratings in premiere week

Don't blame the DVR.

Though some broadcast networks are down significantly in the ratings this fall, the amount of viewer DVR use is almost at a standstill.

The five broadcast networks received a collective 8.8% increase in adult demo viewership during premiere week when seven full days of measurement are added to the previously announced same-day adults 18-49 rating, according to Nielsen Media Research. Last fall, broadcasters received a 8.4% bump.

The similar numbers seemingly conflict with the increase in DVR penetration, which jumped sharply this year from 20% penetration last fall to 28%. When recent premiere week ratings showed networks such as NBC and ABC down double digits, heightened DVR adoption was eyed as a primary suspect for the audience drain. But based on the first week of numbers, at least, the blame for waning ratings seems to lie elsewhere.

One network analyst said the figures suggest DVR use may have stagnated even as DVR penetration increased — that recent adopters of the technology are not as eager to time-shift programs as the more technology savvy early adopters.

It’s just a theory, of course, and the numbers could change in the coming weeks. Also, premiere week included a couple hours of live presidential debate coverage on Friday night, which likely made the week slightly less time-shifted than usual. But if the theory is correct, it’s potentially good news for broadcasters, since it suggests that live viewing isn’t eroding as quickly as most have feared.

Also, the modest DVR increase was far from evenly distributed. In fact, some networks significantly increased the amount that viewers delayed their programming (NBC went from a 8% bump last fall to 12% this year), while others decreased their DVR exposure (CBS went from 9% to 6%). ABC went from 5% to 8%, CW went from 9% to 8% and Fox went from 11% to 10%.

Like last year, shows that are younger-skewing dramas, such as CW’s “90210” (up 27%) and Fox’s “Fringe” (up 22%) gained the most from DVR use, while reality such as ABC’s “Extreme Makeover” (up 3%) and sports telecasts like NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” (no change) benefited the least.

Charts with the biggest DVR gainers (and least-helped shows) after the jump.

Net Show A18-49 7-Day % increase
CW “90210” 1.5 1.9 27%
CW “Privileged” 0.8 1.0 25%
Fox “Fringe” 4.1 5.0 22%
CW “One Tree Hill” 1.5 1.8 20%
NBC “Heroes” 5.0 6.0 20%
Fox “House” 5.1 6.1 20%
NBC “The Office” 4.9 5.8 18%
ABC “Grey’s Anatomy" 7.4 8.7 18%
CW “Smallville” 1.7 2.0 18%
NBC “Lipstick Jungle” 2.4 2.8 17%
Fox “Bones” 3.1 3.6 16%
Fox “Prison Break” 2.5 2.9 16%
CBS “NCIS” 3.6 4.1 14%
Fox “Terminator” 2.3 2.6 13%
CBS “CSI: Miami” 5.2 5.8 12%
ABC “Brothers & Sisters” 4.6 5.1 11%

Here are some of the shows that benefited the least...

Net Show A18-49 7-Day % increase
NBC “Biggest Loser” 3.1 3.3 6%
ABC “Opportunity Knocks” 1.8 1.9 6%
Fox “King of the Hill” 3.4 3.5 3%
CBS “Worst Week” 3.8 3.9 3%
ABC “Extreme Makeover” 3.7 3.8 3%
NBC “Sunday Night Football” 6.9 6.9 0%
CBS “60 Minutes” 2.2 2.2 0%

Net-by-net DVR bumps: ABC 3.8 to 4.1 (+ 8%), NBC 3.3 to 3.7 (+12%), CBS 3.1 to 3.3 (+6%), Fox 3.0 to 3.3 (+10%) and CW 1.3 to 1.4 (+8%).

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