Wait for it: Fall TV season sees big delayed-viewing boosts

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Call it “must-wait TV.”

More viewers are recording shows or watching them on video on demand instead of watching live TV. The good news for the networks is that it means the shows are getting bigger audiences than traditional ratings would suggest.

The bad news is that not all advertisers are paying for those viewers who watch TV on their own schedule, but the networks are slowly getting some advertisers to pony up for those eyeballs too.

On Monday, Nielsen released delayed-viewing numbers for the entire 2013-14 season. In some cases, hit shows got bigger.


The top-line example is “The Big Bang Theory,” the most popular series on television, which averages a huge rating of 5.0 in the key 18-to-49 demographic, just counting viewership on the day-of-air for each episode.

When counting people who watch within seven days of the original broadcast, its 18-to-49 rating rises 2.5 points, or 50%, to 7.5.

That should make for some star-struck advertisers, but in terms of percentage gains, it’s not even close to the biggest.

For the entire fall season, “Modern Family” gained 60% from delayed viewing over seven days, a measurement known as “L+7” in industry jargon. NBC’s rookie James Spader drama “The Blacklist” and Fox’s Ichabod Crane re-imagining “Sleepy Hollow,” no slouches in same-day ratings, both posted 69% lifts.

These numbers may have seemed theoretical in the old days when advertisers would only pay broadcasters for viewers who watched their commercials during an episode’s original airing, and they only recently started paying for viewers coming in within three days.

But at this year’s “upfront” presentations, ad companies and broadcasters are making some deals to pay for those viewers coming in up to a week late.


Some trends solidified in the final full-season Nielsen ratings.

CBS series such as “NCIS” and “2 Broke Girls” trended toward live viewing.

Even fans of the network’s hit comedy “How I Met Your Mother” didn’t heed Barney’s call to “wait for it,” boosting the show’s final season by a comparatively small average of 38%. But “HIMYM” was still the fourth-highest-rated network show of the season in the 18-to-49 category.

No surprise, reality TV tended to rely on its live audience, especially shows like “American Idol” and “The Voice” that announce results on the air and are considered mostly DVR-proof, boost their ratings by just 23% and 20%, respectively.

Genre and cultish fare pulled big tardy audiences each week, besides the quirky aforementioned “Sleepy Hollow.” “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” rose an average of 67%, “The Following” rose 76%, and if you’re recording “Elementary,” join the club; it climbed 82%.

The next tipping point: The eventual show that doubles its rating in L+7. Now that’s something to wait for.