Art and Entertainment

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Season Premiere Ratings Drop

September 29, 2008 02:26 PM
by Rachel Balik
Network television staples like “Grey’s Anatomy,” “The Office,” “Heroes” and “Survivor” premiered to diminished audiences.

Fewer Viewers Tune in for Premieres of Big Shows

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Networks drew fewer viewers than usual for the premieres of this season’s big shows. Some viewers still tuned in for favorites like “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Survivor” and “The Office,” but “Grey’s Anatomy” had 17 percent fewer viewers than it did last fall and “Survivor’s” ratings dropped 10 percent, the lowest rating the show had ever experienced, even though CBS was airing it in HD version for the first time. “The Office” saw a slighter decrease; ratings dropped 4 percent.

The premiere of the third season of “Heroes” appeared to be the most epically disappointing: viewers were down 25 percent. “Heroes” is competing with “Monday Night Football,” but it’s hard to say what the real reason for the drop is.

TV Viewers No Longer Watching in Real Time, or at All

Networks might have suspected that ratings would be low this fall, given the drop in viewers last April and May. At the time, it seemed as though the strike had cost TV dramas some of their followers, who lost interest when shows were off the air. Some thought that users who watched shows on DVD might also be throwing off ratings.

Nielsen started tracking a second set of ratings that included people who recorded shows on DVR last fall. The New York Times reported that these two sets of ratings still left advertisers feeling uneasy. Data from DVR watchers takes a long time to process, explained Steve Sternberg, the senior vice president for Magna Global, a media agency of the Interpublic Group of Companies. 

“We now have to wait 15 days for time-shifted data and 21 days for commercial plus three days of DVR viewing. And that’s if there are no processing delays at Nielsen—a very big if,” Sternberg told the Times.

And of course, advertisers care whether viewers are watching commercials, and most DVR users simply fast-forward past them. Nielsen had to start reporting when users watched commercials as well.

Not only is tracking DVR usage tricky, but it might not help matters all that much. In August 2007, Nielsen announced that people actually watched less TV after purchasing their DVRs.

Reference: Nielsen ratings

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