It took a while, but full-week DVR playback for premiere week is in, and the broadcast networks have reason to smile.
The Big Four's primetime programs as a group posted slight gains across the board vs. last year, according to Nielsen, with ABC, NBC and Fox all up two tenths and CBS flat. This is especially impressive since overall television usage levels were lower this year; basic cable as a group was either flat or gained by lesser amounts than the broadcasters in 18-49, 25-54 and total viewers.
The networks don't necessarily benefit monetarily from viewing done more than three days after a telecast, but Live + 7 numbers are the best indicator of a show's overall popularity on television. And every year, the DVR lifts get larger.
This fall, DVR playback is up 11% vs. last year among adults 18-49 and 23% among viewers 50 and older, according to Nielsen, as older viewers have become more comfortable with time-shifting. As a result, the premiere-week gains from Live+same-day to Live+7 are more pronounced in total viewers than 18-49.
When looking at lifts from Live+same day to Live+7, there were 18 regularly scheduled series that padded their total-viewer tallies by 3 million viewers or more in the first week of the season -- up from 14 a year ago and just nine in premiere week 2011. And the ceiling continues to get higher for the biggest of the gainers, with two shows (NBC's "The Blacklist" and CBS' "The Big Bang Theory") gaining more than 5 million viewers this year.
In adults 18-49, four regular series gained at least 2 full demo ratings points from Live+same day to Live+7, up from two a year ago. And 31 shows gained at least 1 ratings point, up from 27 last year and 18 in 2011.
CBS gained more than any other network in 18-49 (0.9) and also grew the most in total viewers. Its advantage over second-place NBC in overall audience mushroomed from about 700,000 to nearly 1.6 million, and the net ended up slightly from last year.
"The Big Bang Theory" leapfrogged NBC's "Sunday Night Football" as the week's No. 1 series in adults 18-49. And in total viewers, both "Big Bang" and another CBS show, "NCIS," moved ahead of "SNF."
Not surprisingly, the biggest gainers among rookie shows during premiere week were the ones that did the best in same-day numbers ("The Blacklist," "Marvel's Agents of SHIELD," "The Crazy Ones" and "Sleepy Hollow."). "Agents of SHIELD" rose 2.3 points in adults 18-49 -- tying "Big Bang Theory" as the biggest overall gainer -- to hit a 7.0 for its premiere. "Sleepy Hollow" grew the most on a percentage basis, up 71% (3.1 to 5.3) with its second episode.
CBS' "Hostages," which hasn't done a whole lot in same-night numbers, looked better in L7 with its premiere, which rose from 1.8 to 3.0.
At Fox, Friday reality show "Junior MasterChef" gained 0.9 (1.6 to 2.5), putting it close behind ABC's "Shark Tank" (2.6 in L7) as the night's No. 1 show in the demo.
Among returning series, CBS' "Elementary" and "Blue Bloods" and ABC's "Castle" and "Revenge" were among shows that looked stronger in L7.
"Elementary" still finished premiere week down 22% from its year-ago series premiere (3.5 vs. 4.5), but that deficit was 32% in the same-night numbers (2.1 vs. 3.1). And "Blue Bloods" ended up gaining 20% from last year in 18-49 (2.4 vs. 1.7) after initially reporting a 13% lift (1.7 vs. 1.5).
At ABC, "Castle" faced two high-profile series premieres on Monday, so it's understandable that the show had a stronger DVR showing this year; the mystery series finished up 13% vs. last year (3.4 vs. 3.0) after reporting a 5% gain in Live+same-day (2.2 vs. 2.1). And "Revenge" trimmed its deficit from 28% in Live+SD (2.3 vs. 3.2) to 19% in L+7 (3.5 vs. 4.3).
Fox's "New Girl" finished down 21% (3.4 vs. 4.3), a bit better than the 25% it had been showing in L+SD (2.1 vs. 2.8), and it vaulted a big 13 spots in the week's program rankings.
CW, which kicked its off season after premiere week, has seen good early DVR numbers for its shows. Last Wednesday, for example, Wednesday rookie drama "The Tomorrow People" surged 50% (from 0.54 to 0.81) in adults 18-34, and Tuesday's "The Originals" grew 48% (0.83 vs. 1.22).
FINAL WEEK 1 NETWORK PROGRAM AVERAGES
(All programs, excluding sports that started before primetime)