The hidden DVR bump: Live viewing brings less than half of top shows’ ratings

live-dvr-percentages

That episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” you watched a couple weeks ago? Or “Empire”? Or the finale of “The Walking Dead”? Chances are you didn’t watch it live.

With the growth of DVR use and the proliferation of streaming sites, it’s common knowledge that a lot of TV viewing — a majority of it, for some shows — doesn’t happen the night a show initially airs. But live + same-day ratings that are released each morning mask the fact that the number of people who sit down and watch a show in real time, without any kind of shift, is even smaller than that.

In the four weeks ending April 10, the Top 25 shows on broadcast and cable (excluding sports telecasts) gathered two-thirds (66 percent) of their seven-day 18-49 ratings and 76 percent of their seven-day total audience the day a show airs (anyone who watches a show by 3 a.m. the following morning is part of the same-day audience).

The number of people who actually sit down to watch when a show starts, however, is considerably lower. Less than half (48 percent) of the Top 25 shows’ 18-49 ratings in those four weeks came from live viewing*, and only four shows in the Top 25 in the time frame — the ACM Awards and three episodes of “Little Big Shots” — earned as much as 67 percent of their rating from live viewing.

(*Per Nielsen, “live” means viewing in real time only. If you start an episode of, say, “Empire” at 9:15 p.m. on Wednesday, you’re counted as part of the live + same-day audience.)

Even the season finale of “The Walking Dead,” which you might think fans would want to see unfold in real time, had only 43 percent of its seven-day audience tuning in at 9 p.m. ET on April 3. That was, however, a slightly larger share of the final rating than in the previous two weeks, in which the live audience made up only 37.5 percent of the seven-day total.

In a number of cases, in fact, the biggest DVR gain is not from same-day to Live +3 or Live +3 to Live +7, but from live to live + same-day. The “Walking Dead” finale, for instance, grew 68 percent from live to live + same-day (4.1 to 6.9) and just 32 percent from same-day to Live +3 (6.9 to 9.1).

Similarly, “Empire” on April 6 and “The Big Bang Theory” on April 7 grew more from live to same-day (43 percent and 72 percent, respectively) than from same-day to Live +3 (33 percent and 48 percent).

Below is a breakdown of the viewing patterns for the Top 10 shows in adults 18-49 (including ties) in the four weeks from March 14-April 10.

March 14-20

              % of Live +7 contribution
Show Net Live+7 rating Live Live+SD Live+3 Live+7
The Walking Dead AMC 9.1 37% 29% 29% 5%
Modern Family ABC 4.4 36% 20% 30% 14%
Grey’s Anatomy ABC 3.7 30% 27% 35% 8%
The Voice (Mon.) NBC 3.7 62% 19% 16% 3%
The Voice (Tues.) NBC 3.4 62% 18% 15% 6%
Criminal Minds CBS 3.3 45% 12% 30% 12%
The Bachelor – F ABC 3.2 56% 34% 9% 0%
The Bachelor: After the Final Rose ABC 3.1 61% 23% 13% 3%
Little Big Shots NBC 3.1 71% 13% 13% 3%
Scandal ABC 3.0 37% 17% 37% 10%
Blindspot NBC 3.0 40% 13% 33% 13%

 

March 21-27

              % of Live +7 contribution
Show Net Live+7 rating Live Live+SD Live+3 Live+7
The Walking Dead AMC 8.7 38% 29% 28% 6%
Modern Family ABC 4.3 37% 21% 28% 14%
Grey’s Anatomy ABC 3.6 31% 28% 33% 8%
Criminal Minds CBS 3.5 46% 17% 31% 6%
The Voice (Mon.) NBC 3.5 63% 17% 14% 6%
The Voice (Tues.) NBC 3.1 61% 19% 13% 6%
The Goldbergs ABC 2.9 48% 21% 24% 7%
Scandal ABC 2.9 38% 17% 34% 10%
Black-ish ABC 2.9 48% 17% 24% 10%
Talking Dead AMC 2.9 59% 21% 17% 3%
NCIS CBS 2.9 52% 17% 24% 7%
The People v. O.J. Simpson FX 2.9 21% 21% 45% 14%
Blindspot NBC 2.9 41% 10% 38% 10%

 

March 28-April 3

              % of Live +7 contribution
Show Net Live+7 rating Live Live+SD Live+3 Live+7
The Walking Dead – F AMC 9.6 43% 29% 23% 5%
Empire FOX 6.5 54% 20% 20% 6%
The Big Bang Theory CBS 5.5 40% 24% 29% 7%
Grey’s Anatomy ABC 3.7 30% 30% 32% 8%
Talking Dead AMC 3.6 64% 22% 11% 3%
The Voice (Mon.) NBC 3.5 60% 20% 14% 6%
The Voice (Tues.) NBC 3.1 61% 16% 16% 6%
Scandal ABC 3.0 37% 20% 37% 7%
Criminal Minds CBS 2.9 45% 17% 31% 7%
The People v. O.J. Simpson FX 2.9 21% 17% 52% 10%
Blindspot NBC 2.9 41% 14% 34% 10%

 

April 4-10

              % of Live +7 contribution
Show Net Live+7 rating Live Live+SD Live+3 Live+7
Empire FOX 6.3 48% 21% 22% 10%
The Big Bang Theory CBS 5.0 36% 26% 30% 8%
Fear the Walking Dead – P AMC 4.5 40% 29% 24% 7%
Modern Family ABC 4.1 34% 22% 29% 15%
American Idol – series finale FOX 3.6 64% 19% 14% 3%
Grey’s Anatomy ABC 3.6 31% 28% 33% 8%
The Big Bang Theory NBC 3.1 61% 19% 16% 3%
Scandal ABC 3.0 37% 20% 37% 7%
NCIS CBS 2.9 52% 17% 24% 7%
The People v. O.J. Simpson – F FX 2.9 28% 17% 45% 10%

Source: The Nielsen Company.

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