These days there is a lot of talk about the delayed viewing ratings which is usually broken down by those watching a show within three days of the live broadcast or seven days. But despite the fact that the networks and entertainment media might emphasize those numbers, past trends have strongly indicated that the broadcast networks focus more closely on same day viewing when making their renewal and cancellation decisions (the cable channels not named Syfy pay more attention to the delayed viewing because they work on a somewhat different model). But there have been signs over the past year or so that the broadcast networks may be shifting their focus, at least in some circumstances.
Understand that the Big Four broadcast nets (ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC) are still tied closely to an older model for determining the success of their shows (The CW has moved into the 21st Century and shows have a better success rate on that network). Money from advertising is still the primary revenue source funding the shows that air on the old school networks, and sponsors want people watching those ads live. Delayed viewing typically means fast-forwarding through commercials or not including the spots the sponsor wants to be seen if Hulu or other digital platforms are factored in. So the networks may talk up the delayed viewing numbers–largely because they look better than the same day numbers in the current ratings-challenged environment–but their sponsors remain focused on the same day numbers.
So that brings us to two shows that have been performing well in delayed viewing and the question of whether that really matters.
NBC’s Manifest debuted last Fall to strong same day viewing numbers, though it has seen those cool off some as it has progressed in its first season. But it has regularly performed well in Live+7 delayed viewing, increasing its same day numbers by double or more. That show is still performing above replacement level for the network based on its same day viewing and it is typically one of the Top 10/Top 20 shows across the broadcast networks based on the Live+7 numbers. Its live viewing has slipped some at the Mid-Season point (see stats below), but in the current environment I have a hard time seeing one of the broadcast nets cancelling a show that finds itself that high in the rankings based on the delayed viewing and still performing okay based on the same day numbers. So I believe delayed viewing is giving this show a boost, but it is still doing well enough in the live stats. Rumor is that NBC has unofficially renewed the show for a second season and I am expecting them to make an announcement on that one at any point.
Manifest 2019 Ratings Results:
|Date||Same Day||2019 Net Avg||Live+7||% Gain|
Another show that has performed well in Live+7 viewing this year is FOX’s The Orville. That one’s same day viewing numbers are down notably year-over-year, but it more than doubles that on a regular basis with its Live+7 stats. It is currently one of FOX’s lower-rated shows based on the live numbers (see stats below) but works its way into the Top 5/Top 10 for that network once delayed viewing is factored in. Last season, the show had modest same day viewing numbers but very strong gains from delayed viewing and I believe that helped it earn a second season renewal. This year it has moved to a bit more marginal status, but I believe those delayed viewing numbers are helping it some and it still has a good chance at a third season if it does not slip much (the tax credits it is eligible if it goes to a third year help as well).
The Orville 2019 Ratings Results:
|Date||Same Day||2019 Net Avg||Live+7||% Gain|
Another show that had modest ratings but good delayed viewing last year was FOX’s The Gifted, and I believe the Live+7 stats helped it to a second season. But this year, it is currently the network’s lowest rated scripted show and its delayed viewing gains have not been that strong. The combination of low same day viewing plus modest delayed gains puts that one very much On the Bubble at this point (and series creator Matt Nix considers its best chance at a third season is to shift to one of the streaming services).
So when it comes to the broadcast nets, don’t buy into the hype that they may put on the delayed viewing numbers. They like those because they look higher, but cancellations and renewals among the Big Four are still more closely tied to the same day numbers as our Scorecard regularly proves. Strong delayed viewing may be one additional factor in a show’s favor, but if its same day numbers are too low then its chances of survival decrease notably. It was only a few years back that fan-favorite shows like Forever and Limitless performed well in delayed viewing but ended up getting sent to the Network Executioner. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see more casualties like that until those networks (including the NBC-owned Syfy) are brought kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. We are seeing some signs of change, but as with any large corporation set in its ways, that will move at a very slow pace.