The DVR Skew: Ultimately, the Live+7 Numbers Did Little to Help Shows Like Forever, Constantine, and Resurrection

By | May 20, 2015

Tracking the ratings for the broadcast network sci fi / fantasy shows factoring in DVR viewing up to seven days past the live broadcast (data is on a three week delay).

forever-abc-cancelledEarly in this past season, we heard a lot of chatter from the Big Four broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC) that they would be looking closer at the Live+7 numbers.  These are the ratings that factor in delayed viewing of an episode up to seven days past its live broadcast and they are important because of the changing viewing patterns over the last few years.  However, even though these may give a better sampling of how many people watched an episode within a week of it first airing, they are not as important to the advertisers who pay for the commercial time that covers the production costs of a show.  Since people typically fast-forward through commercials when watching an episode after the fact, those adds that the sponsors paid so much for get mostly ignored.  And thus the advertisers (and subsequently the network executives, no matter what they claim) end up focusing more on the overnight ratings.  It is definitely a model that is out of date with current viewing patterns, and it will become more irrelevant as the audience continues to migrate away from the old style of watching television.  But it is still entrenched and still driving many of the renewal / cancellation decisions of the networks (and many of the basic cable channels as well).

Forever looked like it might have been leading a move away from that trend, though, when it received a full season pickup last Fall despite pulling tepid overnight ratings.  ABC cited its Live+7 gains as one of the reasons they extended its episode order (it was also well received by the critics), but then they seemed to turn the cold shoulder toward it.  Starting in November it never aired more than two new episodes in a row for the rest of the season as the network seemed to be using it as schedule filler .  Perhaps they decided it was cheaper to extend that show to twenty two episodes than to start up a new series in its place or perhaps they just had nothing ready in the pipeline to occupy its slot.  Whatever the reason, the network seemed to work against the show that they had given much praise to early on and ultimately cancelled it despite continued strong DVR gains.

Another show that demonstrated notable DVR gains but ended up cancelled was NBC’s Constantine.  And while Resurrection (axed  by ABC) didn’t post gains as strong as those two, it still saw a regular lift.  But when you look at the rankings below based on the Live+7 numbers, you will see that if they were ranked by the overnights it would place each show in a similar place to what it has with delayed viewing factored in (with a few slight differences) and by all appearances those numbers look to have driven the renewal / cancellation decisions made by the Big Four.

The current model will have to change at some point and I will be discussing that in more detail over the coming months, but for now it looks like we are mostly status quo.  And while the networks will talk up those Live+7 numbers, that’s mostly to hide their dwindling overnight scores, not because they are using them to determine the fates of the shows on their schedule.

Here are the full rankings for the broadcast network shows based on their Live+7 ratings averages (metric definitions below the chart):

Rank Prior Rank Series Network Avg Over-night Rtg Live+7 Days Tracked Avg Live+7 Rtg Live+7 % Gain
1 1 Gotham FOX 2.2 21 3.7 69.3%
2 2 Once Upon A Time ABC 2.2 20 3.3 50.2%
3 3 Agents of SHIELD ABC 1.6 19 2.9 76.1%
4 4 The Last Man on Earth FOX 1.6 9 2.7 64.8%
5 5 Sleepy Hollow FOX 1.5 18 2.6 66.2%
6 6 Person of Interest CBS 1.5 15 2.4 56.0%
7 7 Agent Carter ABC 1.4 6 2.4 62.5%
8 8 The Flash CW 1.4 16 2.3 68.0%
9 10 Galavant ABC 1.3 2 2.2 51.7%
10 9 Grimm NBC 1.2 20 2.1 83.2%
11 11 Forever ABC 1.1 19 2.0 78.9%
12 12 Resurrection ABC 1.3 9 1.7 66.0%
13 13 Arrow CW 1.0 8 1.6 74.3%
14 14 Constantine NBC 0.9 12 1.6 79.2%
15 15 Vampire Diaries CW 0.7 18 1.3 89.1%
16 16 Supernatural CW 0.8 11 1.3 78.0%
17 17 iZombie CW 0.7 5 1.2 68.6%
18 18 The Originals CW 0.6 16 1.1 86.8%
19 19 The 100 CW 0.5 13 0.9 75.8%
20 n/a The Messengers CW 0.2 1 0.5 150.0%

Metric Definitions:

Live+7 Rating:  This is the rating in the 18-49 demographic that factors in the viewing from the live broadcast plus DVR viewing up to seven days later.

Avg Overnight Rtg: The season to date average rating based on the final overnights for live broadcast.

Live+7 Days Tracked: The days that the Live+7 data was available for a show in the Live+7 Top 25 charts published by TV by The Numbers.

Avg Live+7 Rtg: The season to date average rating based on the Live+7 numbers for the Live+7 Days Tracked (see metric above).

Live+7 % Gain: The average Live+7 rating percent gain from the average overnight rating based on the Live+7 Days Tracked (see metric above).  The more datapoints available in the Live+7 Days Tracked, the more accurate this will be and the closer the math will work.  Shows with fewer datapoints will have larger discrepancies.

Cancellation Alert: My estimation on a show’s chances of being cancelled.  The five levels from least to most likely to be cancelled are Low, Moderate, Medium, Elevated, and High.


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