Oct 20, 2011 09:23 AM ET
by Michael Schneider
What a difference seven days makes. Many primetime shows are seeing their ratings skyrocket when a week's worth of DVR usage is included — and network execs are scrambling to figure out how to adjust to a time-shifting world.
Now that DVR penetration has reached around 42% of viewers, it's having a real impact on viewership — and making the initial next-day ratings that everyone reports (which includes live viewing, plus only that night's DVR usage) increasingly irrelevant.
For example, when season four of FX's Sons of Anarchy debuted September 6, it attracted 4.9 million viewers, a good number, but not a network record. By the time seven days of DVR usage was counted, that number had climbed to 6.5 million viewers — making it the most-watched program in FX history.
"The numbers are so far apart that it's not even funny," says FX president John Landgraf.
The fact that nearly half of all TV viewers now own a DVR is making some of TV's top-rated shows even more top-rated when all is said and done. ABC's Modern Family leads the DVR pack, enjoying massive audience boosts once the final time-shifted ratings are in. Thanks to DVRs, the comedy's second episode, which initially aired September 28, eventually added a staggering 4.5 million more viewers to its total.
Where the live-plus-seven ratings have the most impact so far is making a mess of network bragging rights. In the adults 18-49 demographic, NBC's Sunday Night Football was originally the No. 1 show for the week ending October 2, posting a 7.7 rating. But once the DVR numbers came in, Sunday Night Football was virtually unchanged (up 1 percent to 7.8), while CBS' Two and a Half Men (8.9, up 20 percent from 7.4) and ABC's Modern Family (7.9, up 39 percent from 5.7) leapt in front.
In another example, CBS' Two Broke Girls was the top-rated new sitcom among adults 18-49 prior to the latest DVR data — but now that more extensive live-plus-seven numbers have come in, Fox's New Girl was the bigger beneficiary. As a result, both shows are tied for first.
"Part of the problem is when you report live-plus-same-day and single airing ratings, you convey the impression that the scale of a show is 'x' when in reality the scale of that show is 'y,'" Landgraf says.
Meanwhile, the DVR revolution is also giving hope to lower-rated shows, as their so-so numbers wind up looking a lot better once time-shifting is included. ABC's Grey's Anatomy averaged a rather disappointing 3.6 rating among adults 18-49 in week two of the fall TV season. But the show got a hefty 41.7% boost thanks to seven days of DVR usage, bringing its final rating up to a much stronger 5.1.
Read the entire tvguide.com article here.