Word of early renewals came down the pipeline this week as the CW delivered golden tickets to shows including “90210,” “Smallville,” “Gossip Girl” and “America’s Next Top Model.” Kudos to the casts and crews. But, instead of thanking CW exec Dawn Ostroff, these shows should consider giving a big hug to an advertiser’s greatest nemesis, the DVR.
After “90210′s” much anticipated debut late last year, which ranked as the highest-rated premiere in the CW’s history (as short lived as that might be), the following week things became grim. Tanked might be a more accurate description. Ratings were down 30 percent for the second episode. Ouch. While traditional ratings have continued to remain on the low side, earlier this month it saw a slight increase amongst females… and myself.
However, an interesting development occurred shortly after the “90210″ premiere, as the CW began reporting that their last hope (rumor had it that if the show flopped, so would the network) posted the biggest increase of any scripted series on television when factoring in live-plus seven day ratings. For those not in the know, live-plus seven takes into account how many people watched back a program on DVR within seven days of its original airing. CW’s other popular show, “America’s Next Top Model,” also scored well in the same category, getting the biggest increases of any network series. In fact, the CW drew in the highest primetime viewership of any network among women ages 18-34 with Live+7 ratings.
I recently spent the day analyzing an internal report from a major network regarding new media analysis (don’t ask) and it got me thinking about the increase of DVR use across America. Nearly 30% of all U.S. households report having DVR units, according to Nielsen. New York ranks number one on the list with 2.2 million units while Los Angeles is close behind with 2 million. Those are, after all, the only two cities that really matter.
Nielsen has been the subject of much ridicule the last few years, as its ratings systems, aka “randomly” selected families with special boxes, don’t appear to truly represent viewing habits of most Americans. It certainly doesn’t factor my personality into the equation, otherwise “Twin Peaks” would still be on the air and “Two and a Half Men” would have disappeared without a trace years ago. Seriously, Cryer and Sheen? I still don’t get it.
If you think the current ratings technique is outdated, get a load of what Nielsen apparently tested out on viewers. At one point, the company would use a device hidden under seat cushions. When someone, presumably a viewer, sat down, it would register for ratings purposes. Other failed gadgets include infrared motion sensors and a stop action camera fixed to a television set. Nielsen’s current ratings boxes have already become just as laughable.
So with DVR usage on the rise, and shows proving successful when counting such ratings, it is imperative that network execs start using those numbers when selling ad space. Obviously, advertising firms don’t want to be bothered with numbers counting people that skip over their 30-second propaganda messages, but times have changed. If broadcast television wishes to remain relevant as cable channels like HBO and Showtime rack up all of the Emmys and Golden Globes, then they must fully acknowledge the viewing habits of their loyal customers. Otherwise, Hulu and other new media services will more rapidly erode the power of NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox and the CW.
Published on TheWrap.com March 06, 2009.