There have been lots of stories recently about how Live+7 DVR viewing ratings provided a "boost" to network ratings in the first week of the season (the only week that Live+7 data is currently available). But how is that news? Nielsen has been measuring DVR viewing since January, 2006 and ever since then some amount of "boost" to ratings has been provided by DVR viewing. There is some chatter that people are using their DVRs less, but while I haven't run the numbers yet, I think James Hibberd likely has it right that the first week was fairly unique because of the debates and associated news shows grabbing large audiences, but likely little DVR activity. I'll wait a few weeks and then run the numbers on DVR use from season to season to try and mute the effect of those unique shows.
One thing that is certain and easily calculated (that's why I did it!), is that the top 5 English networks on average are down even more vs. last season in the first week from this season when Live+7 DVR viewing is compared. On average for Live+SD viewing the top 5 networks were down 2.7% for average viewership in the first week, but for Live+7 viewing they were down 6.6%. The losses in the age demos were even more substantial when Live+7 viewing from last season was compared to Live+7 viewing from this season down 7-8% vs. being down about 3% in Live+SD viewing.
Sadly for the English broadcast networks, on average this season has started badly and DVR viewing isn't the bonus that the media headlines would have you think it is.
10/15 Update: Sadly, a spreadsheet error can steer conclusions wrong so easily. My "English 5" averages in my original chart were bad. While the Live+7 viewing for the first week of the current season is still down, on average, vs. Live+7 in the first week last season, the decline is slightly less (-1.2% for viewers) not more, than the decline in Live+SD viewing (-2.7%) for the same week. The chart below has been corrected.
(click chart for full sized image)
Nielsen TV Ratings Data: ©2008 The Nielsen Company. All Rights Reserved.