In the only TV viewing metric that matters to national TV advertisers, CBS and Fox have been the only two networks to grow so far this season.
In just-released C3 data (commercial ratings plus three days of DVR playback) for TV's premiere week, Fox was up 16% higher in C3 ratings among 18-49 viewers versus the week ago, while CBS was 1.3% higher, per Nielsen Company data. ABC was off 13%, and CW was 18% lower, with NBC 19% below its first week of a year ago.
Even with the drop, ABC retained the top spot when it came to actual overall 18-49 viewers in C3, averaging 4.03 million in the first week. Fox was next at 3.93 million, followed by CBS at 3.79 million and NBC at 3.38 million. CW had 1.2 million 18-49 C3 viewers.
Overall C3 ratings in premiere week were down 6% versus a year ago for five broadcast networks -- ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, and CW -- among 18-49 viewers to 16.3 million from 17.4 million.
Total viewers among the five networks were down 3% to 37.5 million from the 38.7 million of a year ago. Fox and CBS were the only two networks that also gained in total viewers -- 10% and 4%, respectively, versus a year ago.
CBS had the top spot in overall total viewers, with 10.90 million. ABC was at 10.32 million, followed by NBC at 7.21 million, Fox at 7.09 million, and CW at 1.98 million.
From a programming perspective, Fox benefited from putting "House" and "Lie to Me" on Monday night; CBS scored well with "NCIS" and its new show, "NCIS: Los Angeles." ABC earned high marks among viewers from new drama "FlashFoward" and new comedies "Modern Family" and "Cougar Town."
NBC's down-trending results could be somewhat directly pointed to moving "Jay Leno" into the 10 p.m. time spot.
"There really weren't any surprises," said David Scardino, entertainment specialist for Santa Monica, Calif.-based media agency RPA Inc., in looking at the data.
For example, viewers are using DVRs about the same way they did a year ago -- time-shifting more dramas than comedies, with younger-skewing programs being time-shifted more than older-skewing shows.
This year, 33% of U.S. TV homes are using DVR technology, versus 27% a year ago. Not surprisingly, more viewers overall are time-shifting more TV, says Scardino.
Scardino points out that certain new shows such as ABC's "Cougar Town" and "Modern Family" were time-shifted a little less than other shows in the first week. He says this is due to major promotions driving viewers to see them live.
"Viewers seemed to be time-shifting returning shows more -- 'CSI', for example," he says. "They are older favorites -- known quantities."
Among young viewers in the C3 metric, 18-34, Fox earned the top spot in the first week of the season, with 2.07 million viewers -- up 23% versus a year ago.
ABC came next with 1.65 million viewers, down 13%. NBC was in third place at 1.5 million, down a big 25%. CBS improved year-to-year, with a 10% gain -- but landed in fourth place with 1.27 million. The CW was down 13%, to 760,000 average 18-34 viewers.
Scardino says while the results are interesting, a better analysis could be determined with at least four weeks of data.
Starting two years ago, virtually all national TV advertisers made deals with TV networks pegged to C3 ratings, deemed as national TV's advertising 'currency.'