Nielsen C3s, At Long Last

After three weeks of waiting, the Nielsen C3 ratings for premiere week arrived last week. The results: no precipitous difference between live program rankings and C3 rankings.

CBS’ CSI and ABC’s Dancing With the Stars were the No. 1 and No. 2 most-watched shows of the week, respectively, while also posting the top two C3 ratings.

C3—average commercial minute ratings with three days of DVR playback—is a compromise between networks (who want credit for DVR playback) and advertisers (who only want to pay for viewers who are watching their commercials).

The Top 25 ratings are available at

With DVR penetration at 20.5%, live viewing has declined considerably. In the first week of the new season, viewing for the five broadcast networks was off 15% in the 18-49 demographic compared with premiere week a year ago, says media buying firm Magna Global. So far this season, the five broadcast networks were down 9% among adults 18-49 in live-plus-same-day viewing, according to the firm.

While the disparities between program viewing and commercial viewing were about what was expected (between 10% and 20% of viewers skip the commercials), more troubling is that three days of DVR viewing for commercials is not enough to bring the ratings back up to year-ago live levels.

The new metric unites historically opposing sectors (advertisers and programmers) in a common purpose: getting viewers to stick around for the commercials.

“That’s never happened before because that was not the networks’ business before,” says Steve Sternberg, executive vice president of audience analysis for Magna Global.

“Their business in the past was program ratings, which didn’t necessarily coincide with our business, which was commercials,” Sternberg adds. “But now they have a stake in having the C3 numbers be higher. For the first time they’re trying to get more people to watch the commercials. That’s going to be a benefit to advertisers.”