"The good news is that C3 was within our expectations--all within our estimates," says Lyle Schwartz, senior vice president and director of media research for Mediaedge:cia, the big media agency that pushed for commercial ratings for this season.
For the first week of the season, ABC and Fox were the only networks to show slightly higher ratings for their respective commercial ratings plus three days of DVR playback (C3), as compared to their respective live program-only ratings in two important demographics--18-49 and 12-34 viewers. ABC had the highest averaged C3 rating, according to Nielsen Media Research--a 3.58 among 18-49 viewers in prime time--which was 1% higher than its 3.56 live program-only rating. Looking at program ratings, including DVR playback, ABC was at a 3.82 rating for live-plus-same-day, a 4.01 for live-plus-three-day, and a 4.07 for live-plus-seven-day.
NBC had the next highest C3 numbers--a 3.52--although it was under its live program rating by 2%, at a 3.59. CBS was next at a 3.04--virtually flat, and barely down at a 0.3% to its live program rating at a 3.05.
Fox came in fourth place, at a 2.57. But the good news for Fox was that its C3 numbers were 2% higher than its live program rating, which was at a 2.52. The CW was next, coming in with a 1.02 average 18-49 C3 rating--down 4% from its respective live program-only rating. The network was off the same amount in its 12-24 ratings, to a 1.22 average C3 rating.
The better the C3 numbers, as compared to live program ratings, the more marketers believe their commercials are being seen by consumers--something that can make specific networks and programs more valuable to advertisers.
Overall, on average for the five broadcast networks, C3 seemed to fare slightly better with younger viewers. C3 ratings were just 1% lower than live program-only numbers for 18-49 viewers, at a 2.91. For 12-34 viewers, the C3 numbers were just 0.5% less than live program-only, at a 2.19. In contrast, C3 numbers for 25-54 viewers were down 2%, versus live program-only. For 50-plus viewers, C3 ratings were off 5% versus live-program only ratings.
One surprising bit of news: Larger-than-expected drops in live program ratings this year, versus 2006 live program ratings. NBC's "ER," for example, is down 41%; ABC's "Desperate Housewives" is down 23%; "Brothers & Sisters" is off 19%. All this means that viewers are time-shifting--somewhat more than expected.
But in looking at the comparisons that matter most to media agency executives--C3 ratings this year versus live program-only ratings of a year ago--the declines were minimal.
For example, "Housewives" is only down 2% to a 6.62 average C3 rating from a 6.76 live program rating of a year ago; "ER" is down just 3% to a 3.77 from a 3.88.
In 2008, media analysts expect all networks' C3 numbers to be higher than their comparable live program ratings.
"Next year, C3 will outperform live program," said Shari Anne Brill, senior vice president and director of programming at Carat USA. "That's good news--if you like stability. It keeps GRPs whole."