New Shows Must Jump DVR Hurdle

Jan 6, 2009  •  Post A Comment

With both broadcast and cable networks rolling out fresh programs for midseason, a new hurdle is in place for series hoping to make a splash in the overnight ratings that can determine success or failure.
Based on research done at the beginning of the fall season, TiVo came up with a surprising finding: Most of the viewing of most of the season’s new shows was done on a delayed basis in homes with digital video recorders.
Unless that viewing is done before 3 a.m. on the night of a show’s premiere, it doesn’t show up in the ratings for weeks. And by then, a show’s reputation for audience delivery often is sealed.
“We would expect to see this level of time-shifting for an older show with an established fan base, and a new-series premiere to get most of its viewing live,” said Todd Juenger, VP and general manager for audience research and measurement at TiVo. “The fact that these new series got upwards of 50% of their viewing on a time-shifted basis indicates that viewers are growing accustomed to recording programs and watching when they want—thereby increasing a program’s total viewership.”
TiVo found that of the seven new broadcast series that debuted in October, six drew at least 50% of their audiences on a time-shifted basis. The highest-rated premiere, ABC’s “Life on Mars,” got half of its viewership from people who recorded it and watched it later.
For NBC, “My Own Worst Enemy” drew 54% of its viewers from DVR watchers tuning in after the show aired live. NBC later canceled the Christian Slater drama. “Kath & Kim,” the sitcom still airing on NBC, got 51% of its premiere audience from DVR users watching after it aired.
On CBS, “Eleventh Hour” had 51% of its viewers watching on a time-delayed basis on DVRs. CBS canceled “The Ex List,” which got 50% of its audience on a delayed basis.
Measuring TV viewing has gotten trickier as more programs are made available on the Web and through mobile devices. NBC has created a new measurement called the TAMi, or Total Audience Measurement index, that adds up viewing of shows on TV, the Internet, video-on-demand and mobile phones. TV still accounts for the vast majority of viewing, but the other exposures add up—although it takes more time to gather the figures for the other platforms.
In addition to the delay in public sentiment about a new show coming in because of DVR use, TiVo and its ilk cause another problem for both new shows and established ones by making it very easy for viewers to skip commercials.
TiVo said viewers who time-shifted the premiere of “Life on Mars” skipped 65% of the commercials that aired in the program. A whopping 67% of viewers avoided commercials while watching “My Own Worst Enemy” and “Kath & Kim.”
“Time-shifting audiences also have the ability to skip commercials, which impacts the efficacy of the ads and the economics of the program, and can have long-term effects on how networks evaluate their success going forward,” Mr. Juenger said.

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