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MBPT Spotlight: Lesser-Watched Broadcast Shows Get More Delayed Viewing But Still Get Canceled

An examination of this past broadcast primetime season's Nielsen data comparing the difference between 18-49 viewer live-plus-same-day and C3 ratings finds that for the most part the lesser watched shows get the biggest percentage boosts from delayed viewing.

Among the top 10 shows recording the largest percentage of increase from live-plus SD to C3, the three-day measurement currency on which marketers get their commercial buy guarantees, six shows from this past season will not be back next year.

Among the top 20 shows, that number grows to 10 shows not coming back, and among the top 25, its 12, or just less than half of the entertainment primetime shows that were cancelled.

The most-watched show among viewers 18-49 this past primetime season, Fox drama Empire, ranked 17th; the most-watched sitcom among those viewers, The Big Bang Theory, ranked 95th. Their 18-49 ratings numbers in C3, of course, still dwarf those of the shows ranked ahead of them in percentage gains from live-plus-SD to C3.

Fox drama Wayward Pines, which averaged a live-plus same day 18-49 rating of 1.1 and jumped to 1.47 in C3 showed the largest percentage of change, up 31.2%, according to the Nielsen data. Wayward Pines came on the air in May and is still finishing up a 10-episode run.

Six other shows in the top 10 with large percentage increases were canceled. They include NBC drama Constantine (27.1%), Fox drama Red Band Society (25.2%), Fox drama Gracepoint (23.8%) and dramedy Glee (21.5%), and ABC dramas Revenge (19.4%) and Forever (19.4%).

Among the top 25, other series with high percentage increases in the 18-49 demo from live-plus same day to C3 that were canceled include Fox dramas Backstrom (18.8%) and The Following (%18.8%), CBS dramas Battle Creek (18.1%) and Stalker (%16.7%), Fox comedy The Mindy Project (15.6%) and NBC drama Parenthood (15.5%).

The comparison data list was compiled by media agency Carat and its VP of TV programming research, Billie Gold, has a theory as to why many of the least popular shows do so well in delayed viewing.

“These are the shows that are not among a person’s ‘go to’ time period shows,” she says. “They might hold some interest and people might think they’re worth DVRing to maybe watch later, but they’re not must see shows. They are not being watched live because something better is on.”

Gold says despite the large percentage jumps from live-plus-same-day to C3, these shows often get cancelled because “they’re not top of mind among viewers and are not shows that people are talking about. And even if one of these shows’ ratings double once time-shifting is counted in, it is often still not enough to lift their already anemic ratings to a level that justifies keeping them on the air.”

Gold adds that there are random exceptions, citing NBC drama Grimm, which recorded a live-plus-same day 18-49 demo rating of 1.12 this past season but a 22% increase to a C3 rating of 1.4 was enough to keep in on the air. “In Grimm’s case the delayed viewing most certainly helped make a difference in the show’s status.”

CBS drama Elementary is another series whose return was clearly cemented by its heavy delayed viewing. The series averaged a 1.27 among viewers 18-49 in live-plus-SD, but jumped by 29%, the second most among primetime series, to a 1.64 in C3.

Among the primetime series with solid 18-49 numbers, ABC drama How to Get Away With Murder showed the largest percentage of increase from live-plus SD to C3, jumping 22.8% from a 2.28 to a 2.8. Fox’s Empire averaged a 5.0 in the demo in live-plus-same day that jumped 17.4% to a 5.87 in C3.

ABC drama Scandal recorded a live-plus-SD rating of 2.87 that increased to a 3.3 in C3, a 14.9% increase. NBC’s The Blacklist averaged a 2.2 in live-plus-SD that jumped 13.5% to a 2.51 in C3.

The most-watched drama and sitcom scripted shows in broadcast primetime, CBS’s NCIS and The Big Bang Theory recorded smaller increases between their live and C3 viewing, primarily because so many viewers watch each of them live-plus-SD.

Big Bang, which averaged 14.7 million viewers per episode this season and a 3.77 18-49 demo rating, saw only a 3.45% boost to 3.9 in the demo in C3, while NCIS, which averaged 15.5 million viewers, recorded only a 2.87% increase to 2.15 in the demo in C3. The second most-watched drama in viewers, NCIS: New Orleans, also on CBS, saw its live-plus-SD 18-49 rating jump from a 2.06 to a 2.19, an increase of 6.3%.

Just about every scripted show recorded at least a tiny percentage of increase when C3 viewing was measured. One series that averaged the same among 18-49 viewers in both live-plus-SD and C3 was CBS sitcom The Odd Couple (2.19).

Three scripted series recorded lower 18-49 ratings in C3 than they did in live-plus-SD – NBC sitcom Marry Me, NBC drama American Odyssey and CBS comedy The Millers – and all three were canceled. One other interesting statistic: since most sports programming and reality shows, particularly the singing and dance competition series, are watched live, most actually show a slight loss in viewership going from SD to C3. And that includes NBC’s The Voice, one of the most watched shows on television in both total viewers and in the 18-49 demo.