Is That Show Playing 'Catch-Up'?

Some TV shows are high-flying -- others are under the radar. Close to being grounded, maybe. Are these "catch-up" shows?

The critically acclaimed "Damages" from FX is in this category. FX president John Landgraf says he is "plainly disappointed with the ratings" of the second season of the drama starring Glenn Close.

Landgraf blames the "catch-up' scenario: where viewers may watch four days, a week, or even several weeks later on their DVRs. Worst still some viewers go out and rent a season's worth of DVDs of the show.

Much of this does little for FX -- especially with the time shifting of the show, where advertisers only pay FX for the original episode and for three days afterward with DVR playback (this is the TV currency of C3 -- commercial rating plus three days of DVR playback.)

"We got zero credit from Nielsen or from any advertisers," says Landgraf. (However, someone is getting credit in terms if DVD sales and rentals revenue).

Other cable networks' shows, like TNT's "The Closer," USA's "Burn Notice," and Lifetime's "Army Wives," for example, seemingly have less of a DVR problem -- witness their higher ratings.

But during this so-called "golden age of the drama" there has been an embarrassment of riches for viewers, leaving some dramas - however good -- off the radar.

Marketing problem? It could also be a timing issue. The second season of "Damages" ran into the teeth of the regular broadcast season: January through April 2009. Other big cable shows focus on the less-competitive summer time periods.

Overall, however, there is still the issue of too much good stuff.

The highly honored "Mad Men" from AMC does a fraction of ratings of most big cable series. Is it a "catch-up" show? How about "Psych" on USA? "The Cleaner" on A&E? "My Boys" on TBS?  Some TV programming executives believe a number of network shows are also in this category: NBC's "30 Rock" and ABC's "Ugly Betty," or CBS' "Ghost Whisperer," for example.

Shows that viewers want to keep and see later aren't necessarily a bad thing. But for national TV advertisers, for all intents and purposes, some of that viewership doesn't exist.



3 comments about "Is That Show Playing 'Catch-Up'? ".
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  1. Leigh Bingham from Harris Corporation, Inc., August 11, 2009 at 4:39 p.m.

    Personally, I watch "Damages" differently because I want to gobble it whole. I can't stand to wait a week between viewings, so I hoard a few weeks and watch a mini-marathon. You know what helps me do this more than a DVR? OnDemand. You know what trained me to watch this way? OnDemand.

    On the other hand, I nearly always watch "Burn Notice" within a day or two of recording, but while there are story arcs involved, that is not a show where I can't wait to see what happens next. I can thoroughly enjoy weekly pacing.

    It's the types of program that are forming these behaviors, I think, not marketing or timing.

  2. Jerry Gibbons from Gibbons Advice, August 11, 2009 at 4:46 p.m.

    We love Damages. I don't know why others are not watching but we are not watching it because we did not know it was back on. Mmmmmmm. Not a national survey but...

  3. William Hughes from Arnold Aerospace, August 11, 2009 at 5:07 p.m.

    For the last three years I have been waiting for a show to come out on DVD before I watch it. I may be a year or more behind on some shows, but the benefits far outweigh the inconvience, as far as I'm concerned. Two benefits in particular stand out.

    1. I don't have to stand through an AGONIZING number of Commercials whenever I watch a show.

    2. After I finish watching the show, I GET TO KEEP IT!

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