The shows people really watch
I love lists. When this showed up in my email inbox, I immediately thought it would be a good thing to share. It also helps prove a point I often make: don’t pay such close attention to what the overnight, fast national and national ratings say. Nearly 30% of people are watching TV via their TiVos or DVRs, so what people watched last night isn’t necessarily an indication of what they love. What they record – and watch, not just store on their DVRs for the next three months – is a much better indicator.
Here are the top ten time-shifted primetime programs according to “total gain in household audience,” according to Nielsen Media Research Nielsen looked at the time period between Jan. 1, 2008 and Nov. 30, 2008:
Rank Program Network Absolute Difference in Households (000)
1 American Idol - Tuesday FOX 2153
2 American Idol - Wednesday FOX 1945
3 Heroes NBC 1832
4 Lost ABC 1793
5 Fringe FOX 1602
6 House FOX 1454
7 The Mentalist CBS 1445
8 Survivor: Gabon CBS 1396
9 Grey’s Anatomy - Thur 9PM ABC 1358
10 Bones FOX 1331
I know people who still look at the overnights and say things like “oh, Heroes is down by X million viewers. It’s going to be cancelled any moment.” The truth is that any ratings we now see that don’t include DVR viewing don’t really count. They don’t tell the entire story and they don’t give a good indication of decisions a network might make around a show. DVR numbers must be included in any real look at a show to really know how it’s faring. I also believe online viewing must be counted, but I have yet to see an Internet rating. And with Heroes, yes, the show is down, but it’s still doing a respectable number. It’s still a big asset for NBC.
The other thing we can see from the chart above, however, is that a hit is a hit is a hit. American Idol is the top show when the straight ratings come out, and it’s the top show after DVR viewing is counted.
Nielsen also looked at the top ten time-shifted programs by percent increase in household rating. They are:
Rank Programs Network % Increase in Rating
1 Battlestar Galactica (Orig) SCIFI 53%
2 Burn Notice USA 37%
3 Heroes NBC 35%
3 90210 CW 35%
3 Sanctuary SCIFI 35%
6 Eureka SCIFI 34%
7 My Boys TBSC 32%
8 Psych USA 29%
9 In Plain Sight USA 28%
10 America’s Top Model - 5 CW 27%
10 Fringe FOX 27%
10 The Starter Wife USA 27%
10 The Office NBC 27%
Note that cable shows tend to benefit the most by this measure because they start out with a smaller rating, thus their percentage gain is more.
The shows to really note on this list are Heroes, which adds 35% to its rating when the DVR numbers come in. Adding one-third to Heroes 4.7 fast national HH rating brings it to a 6.3. Adding 53% to Battlestar Galactica’s 1.5 HH average (that’s my rough estimate), brings that show’s total rating to a 2.3.
So the real winners in the second chart, besides Heroes, are Fringe and The Office, although I think the second list also gives us a good idea of which shows have audiences that really care about them.