DVR Enhanced Ratings Are In.

David Kiley

The Nielsen Company released the first look at the most “timeshifted” television programs in the U.S., with FOX’s House and ABC’s Lost showing the most lift in audience due to playback with a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) within seven days of its first airing.

For the week of April 2 - April 8, the most recent week for which ratings for seven-day playback are available, House pulled in an additional 2.74 million DVR viewers after its April 3rd airing, while Lost pulled in an additional 2.47 million viewers after its April 4th episode. The April 3rd episode of American Idol on FOX was third with 2.45 million viewers.

On a percentage basis, The Office had the highest gain in viewing with DVR playback, increasing viewership by more than 31%.

The real significance of this, of course, is not that networks should be able to charge higher ad rates. Those additional viewers are mostly skipping the ads on those shows. That's the beauty of the DVR.

Here is a bit of anecdotal hogwash, though. In my house, we make sure to slow down the playback of Idol looking for the Ford ad featuring the remaining cast of the show and shot new each week. It's only natural. If you are caught up in the show's "cast" enough to watch every week and DVR the show, chances are you will want to care enough about a special ad you know is coming to actually watch it.

Okay, I have to blog about this stuff. But even if I didn't, my interest in the Idol characters [as pathetic as that might be] is such that I look upon the Ford "ad" as an extension of the show's content.

This seems to me to open up a world of possibilities for networks to maximize the payoff of the "found" DVR viewers. An ad serial unique to a particular show, for example, is an opportunity. This requires a new way of thinking about the TV audience. Instead of worrying over how many viewers, or the viewers' age and income, how about paying more attention to "why" the viewers are tuned in, and leverage that.

When my wife heard that Ford debuted an ad on Idol that was directed by David Mamet, even I was surprised how keen she was to watch it based on that fact alone. Idol is about show business, celebrities, entertainment. A Mamet directed ad would be of interest to this audience.

But get this. I learned of the Mamet ad as a reporter from Ford on the Friday before Idol aired, and had to agree to an embargo of the information until the day the ad ran--the day of the show. I couldn't help but think afterward how much Ford would have been helped by the widest audience possible knowing the ad was going to air.

If advertisers want to match ad creative to the audiences better to maximiize viewership in the era of DVRs, then they must be a bit more creative in generating awareness and anticipation of the ad so it rises to the level of content in the consumer psyche.

There are several gimmicks in trial to use the DVR technology to get consumers' attention or dragoon them to a longer form ad while using the DVR to freeze the show.

I am doubtful there is much appetite for this in the long run. Taking a more direct approach, however, of building up, for example, a compelling ad serial in a popular show is a much less complicated idea not exploited nearly enough.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.