DVR data has nets pausing

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Don't blame the DVR. Although some broadcast networks were down significantly in the ratings this fall, the amount of viewer DVR use is almost at a standstill.

The five broadcast networks received a collective 8.8% increase in adult demo viewership during premiere week when seven full days of measurement are added to the previously announced same-day adults 18-49 rating, according to Nielsen Media Research. Last fall, broadcasters received a 8.4% bump.

The similar numbers seemingly conflict with the increase in DVR penetration, which jumped this year from 20% penetration last fall to 28%. When recent premiere week ratings showed networks such as NBC and ABC down double digits, heightened DVR adoption was eyed as a primary suspect for the audience drain. But based on the first week of numbers, at least, the blame for waning ratings seems to lie elsewhere.

One network analyst said the figures suggest DVR use may have stagnated even as DVR penetration increased — that recent adopters of the technology are not as eager to time-shift programs as the more technology-savvy early adopters.

It's just a theory, of course, and the numbers could change. But if the theory is correct, it's potentially good news for broadcasters on this front, since it suggests the decline in live viewing isn't as sharp as most have feared.

Like last year, shows that are younger-skewing dramas, such as CW's "90210" (up 27%) and Fox's "Fringe" (up 22%), gained the most from DVR use, while reality series such as ABC's "Extreme Makeover" (up 3%) and sports telecasts like NBC's "Sunday Night Football" (no change) benefited the least. (partialdiff)
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