MBPT Spotlight: ABC, CBS Primetime Shows Are Most-Watched Via VOD

ABC and CBS each have four of the Top 10 most watched broadcast network shows via live-plus-seven-day video on demand this season, with ABC’s freshman drama, How To Get Away With Murder, topping the list, according to Nielsen data compiled by media agency Carat.

The Viola Davis starrer, through Nov. 21, was averaging 795,000 viewers per week who were watching in delayed mode through their cable service and that is 6.6% of the show’s total audience.

Second most-watched in VOD mode is Fox’s freshman drama Gotham, which was averaging 637,000 viewers or 8.4% of its total audience. Rounding out the Top Five was CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory with 546,000 or 3.7% of it audience; NBC second-year drama The Blacklist with 527,000 viewers or 4.5% of its total audience; and CBS freshman drama Scorpion, averaging 488,000 viewers or 4.3% of its total audience.

The remainder of the Top 10 includes: ABC veteran drama Scandal, averaging 462,000 viewers, 4.3% of its total audience; CBS freshman drama Madam Secretary (457,000, 4.1%); CBS drama The Good Wife (437,000, 4.3%); ABC drama Castle (402,000, 3.9%); and ABC freshman comedy Black-ish (375,000, 4.7%), edging out ABC freshman drama Forever (371,000, 5.7%).

The only other broadcast network primetime shows averaging more than 300,000 VOD viewers per week are ABC dramas Once Upon a Time (368,000) and Resurrection (317,000), and CBS drama Blue Bloods (304,000).

VOD viewership is significant in that Nielsen is measuring commercial viewing among VOD viewers and including it in C3 ratings. Nielsen is also expected to begin including live-plus-seven-day viewing in its C7 ratings in 2015. Viewers cannot skip commercials in VOD mode.  

Fox’s Gotham has the largest percentage of its audience coming from VOD viewing with 8.4%, followed by the recently pulled Fox freshman drama Red Band Society and the recently completed and viewer-challenged limited run series Gracepoint, both with 7.5%.

Other broadcast primetime series with higher percentages of VOD audiences include: The CW’s freshman dramedy Jane the Virgin (7.2%); ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder (6.6%); Fox’s cancelled freshman reality series Utopia (6.4%); The CW’s freshman series The Flash (6.3%); NBC freshman series Constantine (also recently pulled from the schedule) 6.2%; ABC’s Forever (5.7%), Resurrection (5.5%) and Once Upon a Time (5.3%).

The most watched shows have several traits on VOD, though, mass live audiences is not necessarily one of them. For example the most-watched drama in primetime television, NCIS, is averaging only 290,000 viewers on VOD, or 1.9% of its total audience. The most-watched new drama, NCIS: New Orleans is averaging only 212,000 viewers on VOD, or 1.2% of its total audience. One of the most watched sitcoms on broadcast TV, ABC’s Modern Family, is averaging 286,000 VOD viewers or 2.8% of its total audience.

“First-year shows, series in more competitive time periods and programming geared to younger audiences tend to get a greater percentage of their viewing via VOD,” says Billie Gold, VP, director of programming research at Carat.

The VOD data from Nielsen does reveal some interesting numbers. Live sports telecasts are not anticipated to get much VOD viewing after a game has been completed. However, CBS Thursday Night Football telecasts this season averaged 33,000 VOD viewers per week. Not a huge number, but more than might be expected. And while most freshman series do get solid VOD viewership, ABC’s freshman sitcom Cristela has averaged just 1,000 VOD viewers.

News magazines do not draw much VOD viewing. NBC’s Dateline averages 42,000 VOD viewers, ABC’s 20/20 averages 35,000, while CBS’ 60 Minutes averages 12,000, each less than 1% of their total audience.

The entertainment competition shows also do not get much VOD viewing. The Voice’s Monday edition this season has averaged 179,000 VOD viewers, 1.7% of its total audience, while its Tuesday night edition has averaged 116,000 or 1.2% of its audience. ABC’s Dancing With the Stars averaged 143,000 VOD viewers, 1.3% of its audience. Gold believes VOD viewing is continuing to grow as DVR viewing levels off and she says it will continue to gain popularity as the networks start to make more episodes available to viewers.

“Networks used to only have the most recent episodes available via VOD, but now more are putting on the last four or five episodes so people are getting more accustomed to viewing TV when they want via video on demand,” she says. “VOD is going to continue to grow as viewers begin to watch less programming live.”