Tuned In: Networks watch how DVRs alter viewership

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The 2012-13 TV season may be the tipping point season for the impact of DVRs in the ratings of prime-time shows.

The Hollywood Reporter says 46 percent of U.S. homes now have a DVR, up from 42 percent last season. And many prime-time shows have seen significant ratings increases when DVR viewing is factored in.

Zap2it.com's TV By the Numbers column keeps track of DVR ratings increases among the advertiser-coveted 18-49 age demo, and it found in the first week of the TV season ratings for NBC's Friday night drama "Grimm" grew 81 percent when post-airdate DVR data was factored in.

Nowadays there are multiple measuring sticks for ratings: overnights, Live + 3 (ratings from viewership within three days of broadcast) and Live + 7 (ratings from viewership within seven days of broadcast). Advertisers care most about live ratings and "C3" ratings that track commercial viewership in the Live + 3 category.

TVB, a trade association of America's commercial broadcast TV industry, released recent surveys that show the programs that most benefit ratings-wise from same-day DVR playback. The group found that 43 percent of time-shifted viewing is done the same day a program first airs.

Here's TVB's list of the Top 10 programs nationally to benefit from same-day time shifting. It shows the programs ranked based upon the percentage of same-day viewing that came from watching the show later the same evening after its scheduled air time.

1. "Parenthood" (NBC), 33 percent

2. "New Girl" (Fox), 32 percent

3. "The Office" (NBC), 32 percent

4. "Modern Family" (ABC), 31 percent

5. "Fringe" (Fox), 29 percent

6. "The Big Bang Theory" (CBS), 29 percent

7. "Survivor" (CBS), 29 percent

8. "How I Met Your Mother" (CBS), 28 percent

9. "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC), 27 percent

10. "Glee" (Fox), 27 percent

And how do prime-time shows stack up in Pittsburgh? Some of the same programs show up, but there also are more ABC shows than in the national list, which makes sense: Pittsburgh's WTAE tends to over-perform in overnight ratings compared to ABC stations nationally.

1. "Once Upon a Time" (ABC), 43 percent

2. "Grimm" (NBC), 39 percent

3. "Survivor" (CBS), 38 percent

4. "Last Resort" (ABC), 38 percent

5. "New Girl" (Fox), 35 percent

6. "Revenge" (ABC), 34 percent

7. "Fringe" (Fox), 33 percent

8. "Glee" (Fox), 31 percent

9. "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC), 30 percent

10. "The Amazing Race" (CBS), 30 percent

TVB also studied the types of programs most likely to be watched time-shifted on the same day. Comedy and reality shows were more likely to be watched the same day than animation and drama.

What does this mean for the future of television? It's probably too soon to tell, but if watching a show sooner is better than watching it later (for advertisers and by extension for the networks), you could imagine networks programming more shows from genres that inspire a viewer to watch sooner rather than later.

DVR ratings may not make a big enough difference to alter the fate of low-rated shows, but this fall we did see network executives ease up on their trigger fingers for canceling low-rated shows until more DVR data could be factored into their decisions.

'Homeland,' 'Dexter' decline

After Sunday's "Homeland" season finale on Showtime, it's pretty clear the show's writers have fallen in love with a different concept of the series than what they first introduced. Unfortunately, this is also a less distinctive, nuanced and believable "Homeland." (Spoilers from the season finales of "Homeland" and Dexter" follow.)

When the show premiered, "Homeland" was an intense psychological thriller, a spy game of cat and mouse between Carrie (Claire Danes) and is-he-or-isn't-he-a-terrorist Brody (Damian Lewis). Then somewhere along the way the writers decided to turn the show into a "doomed romance" between the two, and it became like witnessing Clarice Starling mack on Hannibal Lecter in Thomas Harris' "Hannibal" novel.

The season-two finale continued more of the lovey-dovey stuff between Carrie and Brody, but that wasn't even the most unbelievable aspect of the hour. After terrorists hide a bomb in Brody's vehicle that explodes on the CIA campus, Carrie and Brody somehow manage to leave CIA HQ without any apparent difficulty. Later, while Carrie is presumed dead, she manages to waltz back into HQ to the surprise and relief of Saul (Mandy Patinkin), the only character on the show who has remained consistent throughout its run.

With Brody now in the wind, "Homeland" has an opportunity to reset itself, forget Brody and move on with new stories. But will the writers be able to let go of their love of the unromantic romance between these two damaged souls? One can only hope, but I doubt it. In addition, there's still some question about Brody's innocence in this bombing (he left the memorial service at an awfully convenient time, some will say), allowing the writers to repeat the whole is-he-or-isn't-he-a-terrorist theme yet again. It's getting old.

And then there's Carrie, a morally compromised character in every sense. She never told her CIA bosses that Brody killed the vice president, and now she's helped him escape.

When it began, "Homeland" seemed like a more grounded show than "24," but in its two seasons it has become just as ludicrous, full of plot holes and over the top. Viewers expected a certain degree of unhinged-from-reality plotting on "24," but "Homeland" set us up for something different, something smarter with fewer cheats. The writers could not sustain that. "Homeland" has been successful in offering a critique of the U.S. drone program in fighting terrorism, but that too often gets lost amid plot contortions and lovers' getaways.

In some respects, "Homeland" suffers the same problem as Showtime's "Dexter," which has never managed to recapture the excellence of its first season. This year's "Dexter" finale -- Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) murdered Maria (Lauren Velez) to prevent the truth about her serial killer brother (Michael C. Hall) from being exposed -- can be viewed two ways: an opportunity to reset the supporting cast with Maria's demise or as a cynical attempt to lower the show's production cost by dismissing a series regular and casting a less expensive replacement.

Either way, "Dexter" is simply biding its time. It remains on the air because it is successful ratings-wise, not because there's any creative juice left.

Regardless of quality, "Homeland" and "Dexter" hit their highest ratings ever Sunday with "Dexter" drawing 2.75 million viewers with "Homeland" watched by 2.7 million viewers.

'Kennedy Center Honors'

As usual, CBS will televise a recording of this month's "35th Annual Kennedy Center Honors" during the week between Christmas and New Year's.

Airing 9-11 p.m. Wednesday, this year's edition honors blues musician Buddy Guy, actor Dustin Hoffman, "Late Show" host David Letterman, ballerina Natalia Makarova and rock band Led Zeppelin.

Gun shows gone

Discovery Channel canceled the series "American Guns," about a family of gunmakers, earlier this year, but no one seems to have noticed until the Connecticut school shooting last week, Deadline.com reports.

Also, Discovery has no plans to move forward with additional episodes of "Ted Nugent's Gun Country," which aired as a special this fall.

Meanwhile, according to a CMT publicist, CMT is "re-evaluating programming plans" for "Guntucky," a new show slated to debut Jan. 26 about three generations of one family that operate a gun range in Kentucky.

Channel surfing

The season finale of Travel Channel's "NFL Road Tested: The Cleveland Browns" will feature a game against the Steelers at 10 p.m. Jan. 1. ... NBC has inexplicably ordered three more episodes of the sitcom "Whitney." ... TV Land has canceled "Retired at 35" after two seasons. ... Anyone who wants to get caught up on ABC's "Nashville" can tune into a recap show airing at 10 p.m. Jan. 2. ... Nielsen, the company that provides TV ratings data, is teaming with Twitter in 2013 to offer Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings that will show the buzz factor for TV programs based on mentions on the social media service. ... Syfy this week picked up the rights to air a marathon of the "Doctor Who" spinoff "K9" 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Christmas Day. ... Fox has renewed "So You Think You Can Dance" for a 10th season likely to air next summer. ... MTV has renewed "Catfish" for a second season. ... BBC America has ordered a full season of "The Nerdist" to air in spring. ... USA has renewed "Psych" for an eighth season. Its seventh season begins Feb. 27. ... FX has ordered a fifth season of "The League" to air next fall. ... WQED will air a one-hour special tonight at 8, "After Newtown," pre-empting "Washington Week" and "Need to Know," which will not produce new programs this week. ... WQED's "Filmmakers Corner" (10 p.m. Saturday) will air the film "Mr. Pleasant," about middle-class college students, this weekend. The movie premiered two years ago at the Three Rivers Film Festival and was written and produced by Carnegie Mellon University's Jim Daniels and directed by Point Park University's John Rice.

Tuned In online

Today's TV Q&A column responds to questions about "Two and a Half Men," "Mad Men" and WTAE reporters. This week's Tuned In Journal includes posts on "Smash," "Masters of Sex," "Ray Donovan" and "1600 Penn." Read online-only TV content at post-gazette.com/tv.

This week's podcast includes conversation about "Homeland," "Dexter" and "Sons of Anarchy." Subscribe or listen at http://old.post-gazette.com/podcast.


TV writer Rob Owen: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook for breaking TV news.


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