Dismissive of Dollhouse's DVR numbers?

Categories: TV Ratings

Written By

October 12th, 2009

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I got a scathing e-mail about how dismissive we were about the Dollhouse DVR numbers.  For the record, Bill wrote the post, but I didn't find it dismissive.

To remove a few F-bombs, the general essence of the e-mail was "What's wrong with you people!  James Hibberd called the increases enormous, why are you sneezing at them?"

Ah-choo!

Why I am not a fan of the percentage increase metric:

Let's say  Bill has $1 to his name and I give him another $1.

Bill has just increased his net worth by 100%! That sounds really good.

Now let's say Holly has  $100,000 to her name and someone gives her $10,000.  Forgetting about tax implications, Holly has increased her net worth by 10%

Lovers of percentage increase could spin yarns like "Bill improves his lot in life by 100%; Holly by a measly 10%!"

But any even remotely sane person would rather be in Holly's shoes than Bill's in that example.

Dollhouse DVR numbers in their proper context

Dollhouse's gains were enormous  in the same way that Bill's gains in the above example were enormous.  Not so enormous really, in absolute terms.  The percentage increase due to DVR viewing of 50% only appears striking because of the small base it grew from.

Indeed, anyone who watched Dollhouse's DVR viewing last year would have predicted the .5 adults 18-49 rating increases because that's what happened almost every week of the first season!

FOX surely predicted that itself, but surely hoped for better than the live+SD  adults 18-49 rating for the season premiere of a 1.0 (and even lower the next week and back up to a 1.0 this past Friday).

In the absolute, the .5 adults 18-49 rating  increase was fairly pedestrian and middle of the pack as far as increases due to DVR viewing.

Grey's Anatomy had as many 18-49 year olds watch its premiere on DVR after the night it aired as Dollhouse had for ALL its Live+7 viewing.  Grey's increases to adults 18-49 ratings were three times that of Dollhouse.  That's right, Grey's 18-49 viewing after the day it aired was 300% better than Dollhouse's!

Dollhouse is like Bill in the example above and Grey's is like Holly.  Dollhouse ratings increased by 50% due to DVR while Grey's increased by "only" 22%.

Whose ratings would you rather have?

I'm not dismissive of Dollhouse's DVR numbers

Given the low viewer base, the .5 increases for Dollhouse really are impressive.   I doubt they are impressive enough to save it unless the show can grow from a 1.0 live+SD rating.  I am not dismissive of the .5 increase,  I am dismissive of the 1.0 live+SD rating.

I am  also completely dismissive of any real focus on percentage increases.  James Hibberd writes the following:

But executives often compare how much a show gained relative to its initial live-plus-same-day number, and to boost your rating by 50% is huge (by comparison, last season's "Dollhouse" premiere gain was 30%).

First, I'd like to believe the real executives at FOX have as much grasp of basic math as I have. I'm pretty sure they do.   Dollhouse's gains were up this premiere relative to the series premiere last February because the live+SD viewing dropped by 50%.   Sadly for Dollhouse fans, that's the key metric to focus on here, not the DVR ratings increases.

The first season premiere went from a 2.0 adults 18-49 rating to a 2.6 rating once the full week of DVR was factored in, a 30% gain.  It almost doubled to a 50%  gain this year because of the aforementioned 100% drop in Live+SD viewing.

PR executives perhaps often compare how much a show gained in percentage increases, but besides the PR executives (and other executives, only for the purposes of PR) no other executives focus on those numbers nearly as much as James does.  They care about absolute gains.   Bank on it.

Unless you would rather go from $1 to $2 than from $100,000 to $110,000 just because the percentage increase of the $1 gain sounds so much better to you!

 
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