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DVR Audience for Fox's House Grows 51 Percent, And Broadcasters Should Start Feeling Sick

And the winner is "House." The DVR data is in and the Fox drama proved the most time-shifted primetime show of the fall, with 5.04 million people watching it within the week after or originally aired, and 11.5 million watching it live. In other words, the time-shifted viewers add 30 percent to the total. And advertisers are squawking about Nielsen's plans to include time-shifted viewing in its local ratings? Something tells me that there's a there there to this time-shifting thing.

Not to equate local viewing with primetime -- where DVR viewing is much more prevalent -- but the "House" DVR numbers show just how embedded time-shifting behavior is becoming. Furthermore, according to this story in Advertising Age, the number of DVR viewers of "House" last year as compared with this year grew by 51 percent to 1.7 million people. You can see where this is heading, and as I've reported above, it's both a good and bad direction. More bad, actually.

The good is that the actual audience for "House" and other primetime programs is much larger than it would first appear. But here are four reasons this is bad news:

  1. DVR viewers notoriously skip commercials, so that audience isn't as valuable to advertisers as the one that sits there, patiently, waiting for the commercials to end.
  2. Even if DVR viewers don't skip commercials, as Ad Age points out, since they aren't watching TV at the appointed hour, it substantially diminishes the value of advertising time-sensitive goods and services, like movies.
  3. That's bad enough, but movie studios and retailers tend to advertise heavily heading into the weekend, and guess what? -- half of the top ten most DVR-ed shows air on Thursday night, per Mediaweek.
  4. Oh, and one more thing -- DVR use tends to be heavier among young people -- the people that advertisers most want to reach.
In conclusion, while more people than we might have thought are watching big primetime shows, the additional viewers are only marginally monetizable.

Some people look at these numbers and see a trend. Me? I see a calamity coming for the broadcast TV business.

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