"Live numbers are not the be-all and end-all," said Dan Harrison, Fox's executive vice president of strategic program planning. "I think in the future of television, you're going to see a show with a 100% lift."
The DVR effect may help save series that might otherwise get yanked from prime time after its first couple of episodes. The increase in delayed viewing means the networks can't just look at early Nielsen numbers to decide a show's fate.
"We have to be patient," said Andy Kubitz, ABC's executive vice president of scheduling and planning. "We need to let people catch up."
Kubitz is even remaining optimistic about "Lucky Seven," the network's new drama about a group of lottery winners, which drew only 4.43 million viewers in its debut.
"I'm not ready to call it a failure," he said.
Amid the onslaught of new programming, several returning shows also displayed surprising strength.
NBC brought the original lineup of celebrity judges back together to great effect for this season of "The Voice," the singing competition. The reality show's total viewership Monday and Tuesday increased by double digits over its first two episodes last year.
CBS still has a big hit in "The Big Bang Theory," now in its seventh season, after Jim Parsons just won a best-actor Emmy. The Thursday night comedy kicked off with its most-watched episode ever, bringing in more than 20 million viewers.