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NBC Heroes Saved By Dubious DVR Data

Posted by: David Kiley on October 13, 2009

NBC’s “Heroes” has been spared the axe because ratings for the network drama were better than originally measured by Nielsen when digital-video-recorder viewership was factored in.

This is flawed logic at its best and reveals how endangered the TV network model is.

As reported by The New York Times, the ratings climbed from an anemic 2.6 to 3.7 when DVR viewership within a few days of the show’s live airing was added in. That is enough, it seems, to keep the show on the air.

But why?

DVRs allow people to easily watch programs whenever they wish. The networks are touting the data as a plus. But DVRs also, of course, allow us to skip the ads entirely.

If rating points are there to determine how much advertisers are willing to pay for the ad time, then what difference does the DVR data make if people aren’t watching the ads.

CBS has an answer for this. The network says 44% of the people watching programming on DVRs are watching the ads too. Less than half. That’s a business model?

But let’s face it, the real number isn’t nearly that high.

I am a habitual time-shifter. Ninety-five percent of the TV I watch is time-shifted with my DVR. The ads don’t get skipped under four scenarios: I have fallen asleep; I am distracted from the program by a magazine, my laptop or my son; I am in another room with audio on (a baseball game); I have died and no one has yet discovered my body.

In each case, I’d say the advertisers were hardly getting their money’s worth. My own habits shouldn’t necessarily be projected over the DVR population. But…I actually think they can be.

I am dubious of CBS’s research about how many people are watching ads on DVR playback. The networks are entirely self interested here. It reminds me of when I try to track all the food and calories I take in on

My intentions are good, but I wouldn’t trust the data.

Reader Comments


October 13, 2009 11:08 AM

I wonder if NBC would consider DVR data and bring back Southland! I TiVO just about every series I "watch" that's only way I can catch most of the crap I enjoy.


October 13, 2009 12:25 PM

My DVR records this show but I don't watch it anymore so it should be canceled


October 13, 2009 1:26 PM

I think there are two many ads. Used to be that you would have only 2 minutes of commercials, but now there are upwards to 4-5 minutes of commercials. That is a bit much for anyone who is a fan of a show to have to put up with, not to mention those commercials that play at each break over and over. It is ridiculous. I use my DVR even when I can be home for the sole purpose of skipping the ads. Just my two cents...


October 16, 2009 10:11 AM

Though I agree that the ratings from DVR may not be a fair count, I do have to point out that even those of us who physically watch this great TV show at its original airing also skip the ads because "I have fallen asleep; I am distracted from the program by a magazine, my laptop or my son; I am in another room with audio on (a baseball game); I have died and no one has yet discovered my body."

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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