TV Long View: 4 Early-Season Trends in Delayed Viewing

The Hollywood Reporter digs into the numbers to see where and how people are catching up on shows.
NBC; CBS; FX
From left: 'Chicago PD,' 'SWAT,' 'American Horror Story: 1984'

The first few weeks of the TV season have revealed a few things: Same-day viewing continues to fall as it's easier than it's ever been to catch shows after their scheduled debuts. No new series has really broken ahead of the pack. And people are DVR-ing the heck out of the last hour of primetime on Wednesdays.

That last bit comes via The Hollywood Reporter's analysis of three-day ratings data for the first three weeks of the season (the most recent delayed-viewing figures available). Here are some other findings from a look at the numbers so far.

TV's Most-DVR'd Hour

The three dramas on the broadcast networks (ABC's Stumptown, CBS' SWAT and NBC's Chicago PD) at 10 p.m. Wednesdays all rank in the top 20 among adults 18-49 gain over three days — each grows by at least half a point — and the top 12 among total-viewer gains. Between them, they add an average of 1.9 points to their 18-49 ratings and 8.9 million viewers, which is a bit behind the network lifts for Tuesdays at 9 (+2.35 points in adults 18-49) and Mondays at 10 (+9.49 million viewers).

However, Wednesday at 10 p.m. is also home to American Horror Story on FX, which makes big gains of its own from delayed viewing. AHS has added an average of 0.8 to its 18-49 rating and close to 1.69 million viewers, pushing the Wednesday-at-10 total to 2.7 points gained in the 18-49 demo and 10.59 million viewers. The myriad unscripted shows airing on cable at any given hour don't tend to grow as much as scripted series do. (See below for a counter-example.)

The Masked Singer Is an Unscripted Outlier

The seven network unscripted shows not named The Masked Singer grow by an average of 0.24 points in adults 18-49 and just above 1 million viewers over three days. The Fox hit, however, adds more than twice that: 0.7 in adults 18-49 and 2.32 million viewers. The 18-49 bump is in the top 10 among network shows this fall, and its viewer gain ranks 21st.

Masked Singer posted similarly strong gains last season, but it's an outlier among unscripted shows. No other such series in the past four seasons has had a three-day gain more than 0.6 in the 18-49 demo or 1.73 million viewers.

Digital Viewing Is Growing

Networks aren't sharing a ton of digital viewing data, but what is out there does indeed show that multiplatform viewing is making up a sizable portion of certain shows' total audience. A few examples:

This Is Us has grown by 1.1 points in adults 18-49 and 3.56 million viewers in Nielsen's live-plus-3 ratings. Per NBC, adding in digital viewing over those three days contributes an additional 1.1 to the show's 18-49 rating and 1.87 million more viewers.

The Good Place, also on NBC, grows by half a point in adults 18-49 via on-air delayed viewing — and by another 0.6 on other platforms. In total viewers, its digital lift of about 1.18 million is nearly equal to its DVR/on-demand bump of 1.19 million.

• Fox's 911 is averaging a very healthy 10.15 million viewers in live-plus-3 ratings. Multiplatform viewing brings its total to 11.83 million, a boost of 1.68 million more people.

Old Shows Still Draw a Crowd

NCIS, Blue Bloods, Grey's Anatomy and Law & Order: SVU have a combined 64 seasons of TV under their belts, including the current one. They also draw a combined 41 million weekly viewers in live-plus-3 ratings, and all rank in the top 20 among viewers added over three days.

The latter three, plus Modern Family (currently in season 11), are also in the top 20 in adults 18-49 gain. It is a golden age for very long-running shows, and with streaming helping cycle new viewers into series (SVU's digital audience is a full generation younger than its on-air viewership), it wouldn't be a shock to see any of these series continue (other than Modern Family, which has already announced its final season).