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TV Viewers Watch Different Shows Online

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What do Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill and Vampire Diaries have in common? They’re all shows that are more popular online than on broadcast TV — that is, if you believe recent data from online video search site SideReel.

SideReel yesterday issued a comparison between the top shows based on Nielsen television ratings and those that viewers watch after searching its site, with some surprising results. While shows like American Idol, Dancing with the Stars and NCIS top Nielsen ratings week after week, viewers that watch TV content online generally tune into a different type of fare.

Gossip Girl was ranked No. 125 in the Nielsen ratings over the past season, but is regularly the No. 1 show that viewers seek out on SideReel. One Tree Hill, the seventh most-popular show on SideReel, was ranked 118th by Nielsen, and Vampire Diaries, which holds the No. 9 spot on SideReel, was ranked 110th. How I Met Your Mother — though relatively mainstream — was significantly higher on SideReel, as the second-most popular show of the past season, compared with a Nielsen ranking of 49.

Some of the differences in ratings could be attributed to the type of content people chose to watch live on TV vs. what they watch online. American Idol and Dancing with the Stars, for instance, have a live, competitive component that most viewers choose to watch during the broadcast rather than a day or two later. Shows like Gossip Girl, meanwhile, generally tend to have a longer shelf life.

The difference could also be due to particular audience demographics. SideReel claims that 80 percent of its viewers are between the ages of 18 and 34 years old –very different than the larger TV market. And one more likely to watch Gossip Girl, whether it be online or on the TV.

For what it’s worth, SideReel isn’t the only online video search site to see different viewing patterns for online video vs. broadcast TV. A quick look at Clicker’s most popular shows of all time has shows like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Dexter and The Daily Show ranked in its top 10. While all have a sizable online audience, those shows don’t rack up giant viewership numbers when compared against event shows like American Idol.

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7 Responses to “TV Viewers Watch Different Shows Online”

  1. Another interesting observation is that many of SideReel’s Top shows have competing timeslots on TV. Gossip Girl, How I Met Your Mother and One Tree Hill – from the chart above – all air on Monday nights, along with popular Nielsen-rated shows like Big Bang Theory (12th) and House (21st).

    The overload of series to watch on Monday nights between 8 and 10PM is likely a large contributing factor driving people to watch shows online. Even people that own both TVs and DVRs might not be able to watch/record all of the shows they want to – thus, they go online to find the ones they’ve missed.

  2. Interesting to note that, in SideReel’s Top 10, 4 of the top 10 shows have high female viewership – Gossip Girl, Glee, One Tree Hill and Vampire Diaries. Also, three of these shows are on CW. None of these CW shows broke the top 100 on Nielsen.

  3. Caitlyn

    Many Canadians, like myself, watch One Tree Hill online. It does not play on standard cable, so unless you get the CW Network, you can’t watch new episodes in Canada.

  4. Logan

    The reason why shows like How I Met Your Mother, It’s Always Sunny and the Daily Show are so popular online are because their episodes are packed with throwaway gags. Watch it live-only and you’ll miss out on a lot of jokes.

    However, on DVRs or, in this case, online – you can rewind and catch what you missed through the laughter. That’s why those shows which would skew older than One Tree Hill or Gossip Girl have such a strong online presence. Compare the speed of punchlines of How I Met Your Mother and It’s Always Sunny with that of Big Bang Theory or Two And a Half Men. Their pacing is fast – they kinda want you to miss a joke or two. It’s packed, and lends it self very well to rewatching, or having people prefer to catch it online or on DVR.

    With the shows that skew younger, that’s just a sign of the times – the younger the TV viewer, the more likely they’ll just watch it online.