Nielsen's DVR Ratings Reach New High, Five Shows Get A Boost

Nielsen's new DVR ratings have reached a milestone. For the first time, each of the top-five shows has received a ratings boost thanks to DVR viewing.

For the week of Jan. 23-29, the latest Nielsen data available, all of the top-five shows in adults 18 to 49 saw ratings increase when DVR-playback viewing was added to live viewing. And those shows--the two nights of "American Idol," "CSI:," "Grey's Anatomy," and "Lost"--saw ratings jump by two-tenths each, the most a single show has increased since Nielsen began tracking DVR use in late December.

("Grey's Anatomy" became the first to cross that barrier on Jan. 15 when its DVR-aided rating was an 8.7, up from an 8.5 live number.)

DVR ratings, or "live plus seven day," merge the "live" rating with the DVR-aided, or time-shifted, viewing that occurs during the seven days after a show airs. How to value ratings increases due to DVRs promises to be one of the most intriguing aspects of the coming upfront. Sellers will press to receive some payment for DVR viewing, while buyers will--at least initially--scoff, since DVR users are believed to be rabid commercial skippers.



The first several weeks of "live plus seven day" ratings saw little difference between DVR-infused figures and the "live" ratings. But now, as more and more DVR homes are added to the 9,000-home Nielsen sample, the new ratings are starting to be impacted.

For the week of Jan. 23-29, about 2 percent (194) of the estimated 9,000 homes in the Nielsen sample had a DVR (Nielsen says it will ramp up to 7 percent, the level of national penetration, by summer.)

It appears that the DVR users Nielsen measures are making good use of the devices, at least as far as television's top shows are concerned. For example, the Jan. 24 episode of "American Idol" saw ratings increase 1.3 percent from a 14.9 "live" mark to a 15.1 in the "live plus same day" category. The Jan. 25 "American Idol" saw a 1.6 percent jump, while "CSI:" and "Grey's Anatomy" each increased 2.4 percent and "Lost" increased 2.5 percent. The episode of "24" during the Jan. 23-29 week increased from a 5.7 to a 5.9, a 3.5 percent boost.

The increases are in line with what network executives have long claimed: that DVR homes watch more television, particularly hit shows. But hit shows such as "American Idol" and "CSI:" also demand the highest ad prices. So, since the vast majority of DVR users zap commercials, the most expensive ads on television may also be the most vulnerable to being skipped.

The latest DVR ratings provide further proof of the popularity of the devices. Conventional wisdom has long held that sports and results-oriented reality shows are DVR-proof, since viewers aren't eager to watch them once the outcome has been determined. But a significant amount of viewers watched Travis say goodbye to Shiloh on "The Bachelor: Paris" in time-shifted mode. "Bachelor" ratings increased 2.5 percent in the "live plus seven day" category.

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