Space Ramblings

Did DVR Eat TV Ratings?

NEW YORK — Nielsen Media Research said Thursday that the impact of digital video recorders is a leading cause of why television viewing dropped precipitously this year.

Many of the top shows — from ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” to Fox’s “American Idol” to CBS’ “CSI” — saw their ratings drop in the spring. Prompted this month by questions from NBC, Nielsen began an investigation into the factors that could have led to the slide. Nielsen’s probe is almost complete, but in the meantime the company has discovered several things.

“DVRs appear to be the largest factor in that,” said Pat McDonough, Nielsen senior vp planning policy and analysis.

DVR’s are no doubt part of the issue but Nielsen Media is missing the bigger picture which is that we’re moving from a society that schedules our TV viewing around a network TV schedule to a society that wants to see what we want when we want it. The VCR began that trend long before the DVR and yet the ratings withstood the assault of the VCR somehow. The real problem is that it’s not just the VCR or the DVR anymore, it’s all the sites all over the web piggybacking on YouTube and DailyMotion and all the other video sharing sites that rebroadcast shows, it’s also the shows the networks themselves are broadcasting over the web via CBS’s InnerTUBE and ABC’s episode viewing and NBC’s episode list and episodes available on iTunes.

What it all adds up to is the reality is that networks need to do more than pressure Nielsen to integrate DVR ratings into the package. They need to adapt to rebroadcasting their content online full time and not just as a promotional venture and they need to address the reality that the old line TV spot at 8:30 or 9:30 is a thing of the past and only one of the ways that viewers see their programs.

Anything else is doomed to failure.

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