Blog Post

Broadcasters Heart DVRs: NYT Buys it, Others Call BS

Out of laziness, habit or interest, people actually sit through commercials even while watching recorded TV on their DVRs. Plus, some shows are getting big bumps from DVR viewing in the three days after they air. So despite whatever happened between them in the past, DVRs are now broadcasters’ best friends.

That’s the calculus of a New York Times article today, which points to gains by shows like House, The Office and Fringe when you compare live viewer stats to those who DVR. Meantime, programs like The Jay Leno Show that are “DVR-proof” don’t get that bump.

But Bill Gorman at TVByTheNumbers says the Times was snookered by broadcast PR, because all TV ratings actually include DVR watchers. That is, the commonly distributed stat is “Live+SD,” which includes same-day viewing up till 3 a.m. the next morning.

And Gorman says after that initial group of watchers gets done with their DVR viewing, commercial ratings stay steady. So DVRs aren’t really capturing much revenue for broadcasters.

In a recent conversation with a researcher at a broadcast network, I asked him “Given the fact that the public (and us) sees only Live+SD and Live+7 program ratings on a regular basis, how much of the increase between those two numbers could be assumed to benefit C+3 commercial ratings?”

His answer? 10%

So that 40% increase in program ratings from Live+SD to Live+7 for Dollhouse? It helped advertising revenue by 4%.

Even in that context, though, I still think the Times story is worth noting. Broadcasters wanting to publicize their friendly feelings towards the DVR, formerly their “mortal foe,” as the headline notes? Why would that be? It’s got to signal a deeper fear of some other enemy. I’d put my money on that being the web.