Did DVR Viewing Save 'Fringe?'

Categories: 1-Featured,Broadcast TV

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March 26th, 2011

I've gotten a lot of questions with some variation of: “Did Fringe’s DVR viewing play a factor in its renewal?”  I also got a lot  of “what impact does Fringe’s renewal have on other Fox bubble shows?” questions.  That’ll either get covered in the Bubble Watch, next week’s Renew/Cancel Index for Fox, or both.

For purposes of the DVR discussion, we’re talking about any DVR viewing post-air date that shows up only in the Live+3 or Live+7 program ratings. The same-day DVR component is significant too, but those numbers are inclued the numbers everyone sees the day after airing, i.e. the ratings we post Saturday morning already include any DVR viewing of Fringe up to 3am.

Fringe’s DVR Numbers Are Good Compared to Its Friday Competition

Excluding last night, Fringe was averaging a 2.2 Live+7 adults 18-49 rating in Nielsen’s “Most Current” averages which are a blend of Live+7 where available, and Live+SD where they aren’t (usually the most recent couple of weeks).  Fringe’s average benefits versus some of its Friday scripted competition since it hasn’t aired any repeat telecasts. But even in looking at originals vs. other originals, Fringe’s Live+7 numbers are better than its Friday competition.

For example, on Friday February 25, Fringe had a 1.5 Live+SD adults 18-49 rating while CSI: NY had a 1.8, or 20% better than Fringe. But not as many people watched CSI: NY post air-date and in the Live+7 rating, it added only 0.4 to wind up with a 2.2 adults 18-49 rating. Fringe added 0.8 to wind up with a 2.3 adults 18-49 rating, the best for the night.

What do you mean by “matter?”

Without a doubt, Fringe’s DVR viewing mattered from a PR perspective where Fox can tout that it’s the number one Friday show in the key demo with a week of DVR viewing. But when it comes to revenue for Fox, it’s unlikely that Fringe’s post airdate DVR viewing moved the needle much on the C3 ratings which drive advertising sales. C3 ratings are the commercial ratings with three days of DVR viewing, and unfortunately the C3 numbers are only very rarely made public. Any data we have seen suggests that the post airdate viewing probably doesn’t change the C3 numbers significantly. That’s not surprising given that all DVR users skip some of the commercials some of the time, with many skipping most of the commercials most of the time.

Fox’s semi-anonymous head of scheduling was still tweeting to encourage fans to watch the show LIVE even after its renewal.  Though that doesn’t mean DVR viewing doesn’t matter at all, it reinforces a known truth: LIVE viewing matters much more.

I’m not as quick as some to dismiss the value of PR and perception. I’m also not quick to dismiss DVR viewing as a factor for marginally-rated shows. But especially given the 22 episode full season pickup, I’d be pretty surprised if it was a big factor (disclaimer: then again, I was pretty surprised it got a full season order). Some have suggested that Fox’s Kevin Reilly was in a tough spot, and didn’t want to alienate science fiction fans. But that  tough spot could’ve been handled with a 13 episode order. The 22 episode order suggests there were other factors.

Obviously the DVR viewing couldn’t hurt, and it might have helped a little, but count me in the camp of thinking financial wheeling and dealing and other factors probably mattered much more.

The speculation will no doubt continue, but whatever the reasons, Fringe was renewed.

 
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