DVR usage grows, drives network ratings higher

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The broadcast networks saw an almost 25% jump in premiere week ratings from viewers who recorded shows and watched them within seven days compared with the same week last fall.

According to the Nielsen Co., the number of people who recorded prime-time shows during Week 1 of the new season and then viewed them during the next seven days was 6.3 million. Last year, that number was 5.1 million.

The increase highlights the growth in popularity of digital video recorders and gives television networks more ammunition to make the case to advertisers that new technology means reassessing the heavy reliance on initial ratings in determining the popularity of certain shows.

For example, the audience for the season premiere of ABC’s ‘Modern Family’ grew almost 5 million when DVR usage for the seven days following its airing was included. CBS’ ‘Two and a Half Men’ saw its audience grow by over 4 million while Fox’s ‘Glee’ jumped by 3 million.


For decades, the networks have lived and died with Nielsen’s daily ratings. However, as DVR growth continues -- currently about 42% of all TV homes have one -- the value of those daily ratings will wane. The media and advertisers rely on the next-day numbers to declare winners and losers, but that may have to change in the next few years when DVR penetration crosses the 50% mark.

Among the networks, CBS had six of the top 10 shows watched within seven days of being recorded.

-- Joe Flint