One of the recurring themes this season, championed perhaps most loudly by Dawn Ostroff at the CW will be that the overnight ratings and even the final daily ratings that represent only one night of DVR viewing no longer matter.
While it’s reasonable to assume that they don’t matter quite as much as they used to, you can trust Ms. Ostroff is just putting a fine Hollywood shine on things and that CW is sweating over the overnight ratings as much as the other networks.
When Nobody Watches Your Network, Of Course They Don't Matter!
Ostroff is not out there on her own PR spinmeister island though. In a sure sign that NBC is worried silly that The Event might not be the ratings event it hoped for, they are already using their Jedi mind tricks on fine publications like The New York Times. NBC tells the NYT that it plans on taking “a measured approach” with initial numbers and NBC programming executive Angela Bromstad said “The DVR numbers are going to be very, very important.”
Not just very important kids, very, very important!
But tomorrow morning, we will receive from NBC and all the other networks ratings analysis based on the preliminary numbers. If The Event performs well in those numbers NBC will absolutely use those numbers as an opportunity to talk the show up.
You can count on all the trades still reporting based on preliminary numbers and you can count on every network issuing press releases based on those numbers. That won’t change for a long time.
Will It Ever Change?
For now, the fact is around 60% of the homes don’t have DVRs. That doesn’t mean that they can’t watch online or on demand in those homes, it just means that for most people still watch television the good old fashioned way most of the time. Other than sports, I almost never watch TV the old fashioned way and haven’t in 10 years, but I’m not most people. If you don’t watch TV the old fashioned way, you aren’t most people either.
Sure, I’m biased. The overnight ratings are kind of a pretty big deal around here. But biases aside, I expect there will be a compulsive focus on those numbers even after less than 50% of the people watch TV the old fashioned way. Why? For the simplest of all reasons: those will be the first numbers available and nobody, including Hollywood, loves to wait.
For now, it's the initial live plus same day DVR numbers, and ultimately the C3 (commercial ratings, live plus three days of DVR viewing) that are very, very important. And they are almost always a pretty good indicator of how the other numbers will shake out. It's the Live+7 ratings(full week of DVR program viewing) commonly referred to as "the DVR ratings" that really aren't very, very important. Or even very important.