Dear Fans of Low-Rated Shows: Ignore the Deceptive 'Percentage Gain From DVR' Rankings

Categories: 1-Featured,Broadcast TV

Written By

December 20th, 2010

There is still a lot of fan confusion about DVR numbers, and regardless of what we do to clear it up, ultimately by posting percentage gain numbers, we’re part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

Bill has spent a some time trying to debunk DVR PR, but by virtue of posting the % increase numbers only creates more PR to debunk!  Rather than the “Jedi Mind Trick” approach, a lot of the confusion could probably be cleared up by a simple disclaimer in the DVR posts with regard to the % gain rankings:

These % gain numbers are almost meaningless, particularly for low rated shows, i.e. 43% percent of a very tiny number added back to the very tiny number is still a very tiny number.  We provide the % gain rankings because if we didn't, you wouldn't see any DVR information for the lowest-rated shows.

I'm not picking on The Good Guys, or its fans.  I have nothing against the show, and since it's already been canceled, there are no future ratings to debate.  But due to the nature of data delays, when the DVR numbers come out, we get to revisit the past.

Some fans of The Good Guys, upon seeing that it gained 43% in 18-49 ratings post airdate with additional viewing on DVR,  jumped to the conclusion that proves that if Fox had aired the show on another night, it would’ve done well.  That’s simply not true.

It is just a case where the lowest rated scripted original of the week quite naturally had the highest percentage gain because it was so tiny to begin with.  People get caught up in the 43% without thinking about what it really means.   The lowest rated shows will almost always be at the top of the percentage gains chart just because of how the math works.

For the week ending December 5, an original episode of The Good Guys was ranked 71st out of 72 shows in Live+SD adults 18-49 rating, beating out only a Saturday repeat telecast of Law & Order: Los Angeles. How much did that 43% gain boost it in the Live+7 rankings? Not much. It jumped to 68th out of 72 shows, beating out only the aforementioned Law & Order: LA repeat plus Dateline, and Life Unexpected and Hellcats.

So all it beat, even when that huge % gain with DVR viewing was added in, was a repeat, an unscripted show and two shows from a lesser-watched network. CSI: NY, which also aired that Friday at 9pm was ranked 36th out of 72, or 32 spots higher than The Good Guys. So all that DVR percentage increase did in terms of catching up to CSI: NY was…almost nothing.

The percentage gain metric is almost always meaningless -- absolute gain is far more meaningful.   The Good Guys had a higher percentage gain than Bones (43% vs. 35%), but Bones had nearly three times as much of an absolute gain (.8 of an adults 18-49 rating point vs. .3).  The smaller percentage gain for Bones was far more meaningful than the larger percentage gain for The Good Guys.  To hammer the point home, Grey's Anatomy had only a 33% increase post airdate due to DVR, but its absolute gains were more than 4 times greater than for The Good Guys (1.3 vs.  0.3).

Perhaps the % gain rankings should just be renamed "Jedi Mind Trick Rankings," because by itself, that metric is meaningless. But if we didn't include those rankings, you'd never see any DVR data for low-rated shows or practically any show on the CW.

 
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