TiVo numbers spike with Letterman confession

TV host's apology to staffers also drives substantial gains

Thank goodness for TiVo. If it wasn't for its time-shifting abilities -- and that of its DVR clones -- audiences might not have been able to revisit David Letterman's alleged blackmail-induced confession, or his apology about said confession four days later.

TiVo said time-shifted ratings among its users spiked 75% during the 10 minutes Letterman confessed his sexual dalliances during his Oct. 1 show. That compares to a lift of only 20% among live viewers.

TiVo uses its own Stop//Watch system of audience measurement, as opposed to the industry-standard Nielsen ratings.

TiVo's numbers make a couple of points: Some folks who record "Late Show With David Letterman" nightly but don't necessarily watch it consistently made sure to watch that night's recorded version of the show. Also, the fact that CBS, a few hours earlier, had telegraphed what Letterman had in store that night probably prompted lots of TiVo users to record the show.

Users took to their TiVo's in big numbers again on Monday, when Letterman apologized to his staff for making them the center of a media-feeding frenzy. During that three-minute segment, time-shifted viewing jumped 71%, compared with a 22% climb in live viewing.

Referring to his staff, Letterman that night expressed his "apologies for subjecting them to that vulnerability and being browbeaten and humiliated."

"I'm terribly sorry that I put the staff in that position," he said before telling the audience he had his work cut out for him trying to patch things up with his wife.

While he was at it, Letterman also jokingly apologized to Sarah Palin -- again.

Nielsen reported the Palin flap -- the host made sexual jokes five months ago about the former vice presidential candidate's teenage daughter -- and the current scandal provided ratings jolts for "Late Show With David Letterman."

TiVo also said that Letterman's monologue Monday appealed to time-shifters, though it wasn't as popular as the apology to his staff and the congenial remarks he made about his wife. Time-shifted ratings for the monologue, filled with self-deprecating jokes, jumped 63%, compared with a 28% climb for live viewing.