Nielsen: 10% of Broadcast Primetime Viewing via DVR Playback

June 4, 2007

This article is included in these additional categories:

Broadcast & Cable | Media & Entertainment | Television

Among all US households, including those without DVRs, 90% of all broadcast primetime viewing among television viewers age 18-49 occurs live, meaning that 10% is seen via DVR playback, according to the Nielsen Company, which last week began offering its first standardized TV ratings of commercials.

The intent is to give clients a way to measure the impact of digital video recorders (DVRs), and other “time-shifting” technologies, on commercial viewing, Nielsen said. The data will be available back to April 30 and will cover six “streams” of viewing data:

  • Live viewing
  • Live viewing plus DVR playback on the same day
  • Live viewing plus DVR playback for one, two, three and seven days

About 17% of households in the US currently have DVRs, according to Nielsen. Within those households, 58% of broadcast primetime viewing takes place live, with 42% occurring through some form of DVR playback (see Table 1). Also, 95% of all broadcast primetime viewing within these homes (Live + Playback) takes place within three days of the live telecast.


The amount of cable and syndicated viewing that occurs via DVR playback is lower, with 85% of cable primetime viewing and 84% of syndicated programming taking place live, respectively, in DVR households. Almost all viewing to cable and syndicated programming (Live + Playback) occurs within three days.

Among all US households, again, the impact of DVRs on viewing cable and syndicated programming is lower than for broadcast prime, with 97% of all primetime viewing on cable seen live and 98% of all syndicated programming seen live.


When DVR playback is included in the ratings, audiences increase for both programs and commercials, although at different rates.

Among households with DVRs, the average primetime broadcast program audience increases 40% when including same day DVR playback and 73% when including three days of playback. Audiences for commercial minutes within these broadcast programs increase 18% and 32% respectively. Both cable network and syndicated programs and commercials also show increases, although at lower rates.


Among broadcast primetime programs, The Office had the highest percentage of people watching its commercials when including three days of DVR playback, compared with the initial live-only rating of the program.

On average, after three days of DVR playback, the percentage of viewing to the commercial minutes in The Office was 108% of the total viewing level for the live program itself.

The Office was one of several primetime broadcast network programs that had higher commercial ratings after three days of DVR playback than the live-only program rating (see table 4).

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