When Do DVR'd Shows Get Watched? Same Night or After?

Categories: New TV Technology,TV Ratings Reference

Written By

January 9th, 2009

I've read lots of anecdotal claims about when shows get watched on DVRs. Some have been the excuses of broadcast network execs about how they're losing out to their own shows on DVR (instead of the 50%+ of the prime-time audience now watching cable). 10-11pm shows are said to be held to future days for viewing, one reason NBC gives for putting Jay Leno on at 10pm every weekday next season (although my guess is that Leno gets relatively light DVR viewing *and* live viewing). But I've never seen any numbers in public, so I ran some myself.

Overwhelmingly, the shows watched MOST via DVR on the same day they are broadcast are either reality shows or 8-9pm (Eastern) timeslot shows. On the flip side, the shows watched LEAST on the day they were broadcast are all 10-11pm (Eastern) timeslot shows.

Both of those findings make sense to me, folks have the time to watch early shows, but not later shows, and people want to find out "what happened" on a reality show because it's time sensitive information they either want to talk about or fear having spoiled if they don't already know.

I took the season to date DVR data through November 30, 2008 and selected the shows with at least 5% of their total viewing by DVR (below 5%, show numbers start getting atypical, the median broadcast primetime show has more than 10% of its viewing via DVR).

Here are the shows that have the HIGHEST percentage of their DVR viewing on the same day as they are broadcast (through 3AM the following day):

Rank Programs Net % of DVR Viewing On Airdate Type
2 Amazing Race 13 CBS 69.0% reality
3 How I Met Your Mother CBS 67.2% 8-9pm
4 Dancing with the Stars ABC 65.5% reality
5 Big Bang Theory, THE CBS 65.3% 8-9pm
6 SURVIVOR: GABON CBS 65.0% reality
7 KING OF THE HILL FOX 60.9% 8-9pm
8 STYLISTA CW 59.6% reality
9 Biggest Loser 6 NBC 59.3% reality
10 AMERICA'S Top Model-5 CW 58.5% reality
11 KATH & KIM NBC 58.3% 8-9pm
12 Simpsons FOX 58.0% 8-9pm
13 OLD CHRISTINE CBS 56.3% 8-9pm
14 CHUCK NBC 55.6% 8-9pm
15 Desperate Housewives ABC 55.1%
16 NCIS CBS 54.7%
17 Two and a Half Men CBS 54.1%
18 OFFICE NBC 54.1%
19 KITCHEN NIGHTMRS-THU 8P FOX 54.1% reality, 8-9pm
20 GARY UNMARRIED CBS 53.5% 8-9pm

Here are the shows that have the LOWEST percentage of their DVR viewing on the same day as they are broadcast (through 3AM the following day):

Rank Programs Net % of DVR Viewing On Airdate Type
1 WITHOUT A TRACE CBS 24.0% 10-11pm
2 LIPSTICK JUNGLE NBC 27.9% 10-11pm
3 ELI STONE ABC 28.2% 10-11pm
4 NUMB3RS CBS 28.8% 10-11pm
5 LIFE ON MARS ABC 29.5% 10-11pm
6 ELEVENTH HOUR CBS 29.7% 10-11pm
7 Law And Order:SVU NBC 30.3% 10-11pm
8 CSI: MIAMI CBS 30.8% 10-11pm
9 CSI: NY CBS 31.4% 10-11pm
10 MY OWN WORST ENEMY NBC 32.8% 10-11pm
11 E.R. NBC 33.2% 10-11pm
12 BOSTON LEGAL ABC 33.6% 10-11pm
13 DIRTY SEXY MONEY ABC 33.9% 10-11pm
14 Law And Order NBC 34.1% 10-11pm
16 LIFE NBC 34.4%
17 EX LIST, THE CBS 35.3%
19 UNIT, THE CBS 35.6%
20 CRUSOE NBC 36.4%


DVR (Time-shifted) Viewing – Program ratings for national sources are produced in three streams of data – Live, Live+Same Day (Live+SD) and Live+7 Day. Time shifted figures account for incremental viewing that takes place with DVRs which are currently in approximately 24.4% of all U.S. TV households. Live+Same Day (Live+SD) include viewing during the same broadcast day as the original telecast, with a cut-off of 3:00AM local time when meters transmit daily viewing to Nielsen for processing. Live+7 Day ratings include incremental viewing that takes place during the 7 days following a telecast.
Nielsen TV Ratings: ©2008 The Nielsen Company. All Rights Reserved.

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