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Networks Are Factoring DVR Into Ratings, But Will It Make a Difference?

Totally Obvious News of the day: ratings for shows are really, really different when you factor in DVR. Networks are finally starting to count the number of people who watch a show on DVR in the seven days after it airs, in addition to the previously-measured number of people watching live or on DVR that night. And it makes a real difference: according to same-night viewers, Two Broke Girls was the biggest new sitcom this fall; counting seven-day-DVR, New Girl does better.

Interesting, sure. But will the new measurement actually stop good shows from getting canceled? Probably not. The key number is still the C3 rating, or how many people watch the show’s commercial breaks. As we explained back in January, “If every Nielsen Family watched a show the day after it aired but skipped through all its ads, that show would probably be canceled.”

In other words, it doesn’t really matter how much DVR-viewing is taken into account if commercial-viewing remains static. And since it’s so easy to skip commercials on DVR, the additional seven days of DVR-viewing probably won’t add much to C3 ratings. And of course, watching a show on Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, or on-demand cable won’t help its chances of getting picked up for another season, since the ads shown there (if any) are different from the ones originally shown on TV.

It’s cool that networks are starting to understand that same-night viewing isn’t the whole picture of who’s watching a show. But the bigger problem remains, in a world where it’s increasingly easy to separate ads and entertainment content: if networks are only interested in selling the ads, why should they even care who’s watching the show itself?

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