DVR Users Younger Than Live Network Viewers

Sep 12, 2007  •  Post A Comment

In the upcoming television season, viewers who used their digital video recorders to watch network shows after they’ve aired will be counted in the ratings—so long as they don’t fast-forward through the commercials.
Those DVR viewers are significantly younger than couch potatoes who are willing to watch shows live, according to a new report from media buyer Magna Global USA.
With time-shifted viewing added to the mix, the broadcasters get a large increase among viewers in their 30s and almost as large a bump in 20-something viewers. Take NBC: For its live programming adults 30 to 39 years old represent 15 percent of the audience. Among those playing back shows on DVRs, 32 percent of NBC’s audience is in their 30s.
On the flip side, Magna found the percentage of the audience 65 and older declines dramatically among DVR users, and there is a significant dropoff among viewers 50 to 64. At ABC, for instance, the percentage of live viewers 65 or older is 19 percent. Among those watching ABC shows on their TiVos, viewers 65 and older account for just 3 percent of the audience.
Median viewer ages, which have been climbing for the broadcast networks as far as live viewing is concerned, are considerably lower among time-shifters.
CBS, the network with the oldest audience in live viewing with a median age of 53, is still the oldest network among time-shifters, with a median age of 40. Still, that’s a 13-year difference, and those younger viewers—at least those who watch the commercials—are valuable to advertisers.
ABC’s live median age of 48 drops to 37 among time-shifters; NBC’s median age is 49 live and 37 time-shifted; Fox goes from 42 to 35. The CW, which has a median age of 32 live, has a time-shifted median age of 31.
In the report, Steve Sternberg, executive VP for audience analysis at Magna, said when viewed live, 30 percent of all prime-time series had median ages of 50 or older. When time-shifted on a DVR, no series had a median age over 50.
Mr. Sternberg noted the scripted series with the biggest age gap between live and time-shifted viewers at ABC were “Ugly Betty,” Friday repeats of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Lost.” For CBS, “CSI,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “Jericho” and “The Class” showed the biggest gap. The shows with the biggest split for NBC were “Law & Order,” “Las Vegas,” “Law & Order: CI” and “Law & Order: SVU.” The CW’s “7th Heaven” posted that network’s biggest gap. In all those cases, the difference between the median of live and time-shifted viewing was 12 years or more.
Even “60 Minutes,” the show with the oldest audience on the networks at 60 years old, was 15 years younger among time-shifters.
A handful of unscripted series also showed a big difference between their live audiences and their time-shifted audiences. Those included “Dancing With the Stars,” “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” “Deal or No Deal” and “Dateline.”
In the battle of the big Thursday night hits, Mr. Sternberg noted CBS’ “CSI” had a significantly older live audience than its time-period rival “Grey’s Anatomy” on ABC. But, he said, “There’s just a two-year difference in their time-shifted audiences—38 for ‘CSI,’ 36 for ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’”
He also looked at the figures for “Jericho,” the program CBS canceled but later brought back after viewer protests.
“Going from live to DVR playback, ‘Jericho’s’ median age went from 53 to 40,” Mr. Sternberg said. “It is likely that this time-shifted audience had more of a hand in protesting the show’s cancellation and helping to get it renewed.”

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