By Gary Levin, USA TODAY
Cable TV series are winning a bigger share of awards, but they're
less likely to demand urgent viewing by fans, who are more apt to use
DVRs to catch up with them later.
Nielsen data for this year
shows even bigger ratings gains between the day a show first airs and
the accumulated audience up to a week afterward, now that nearly half of
U.S. homes have digital video recorders. AMC's top-rated The Walking Dead
racked up an average of 15 million zombie lovers for its winter season,
adding 31% to its already huge same-day turnout of 11.4 million.
A&E's Duck Dynasty added 4 million, a bigger boost than The Following, Revolution or Elementary. And the audience for USA's Suits jumped 2.2 million when 7-day viewing was factored in, a 65% increase.
upticks vary widely, and as with broadcast series, news and sports are
almost never recorded for later viewing, while 18-to-49-year-olds -- the
sweet spot for advertisers -- tend to record shows more frequently than
older viewers. And younger ones, too: Kids are far less likely to
record shows for later viewing, as SpongeBob SquarePants added just 4% for original episodes and Disney's Austin & Ally rose 16%.
Also in the less-likely-to-record column were History miniseries The Bible, which had the same initial audience as Walking Dead (11.4 million) but added only 1.8 million viewers within a week, a 16% increase, compared to Dead's31%.
cable series, which air frequent repeats throughout the week and are
increasingly available on demand, often depend on the premiere telecast
for a fraction of their total audience. New FX series The Americans
averaged 1.9 million viewers, but that accounted for just 30% of its
overall viewership; DVR usage alone nearly doubled that total to 3.4
million, while other viewing adds still more.
"When you have a new
show in a crowded field, it's not surprising that though fewer people
(latch on) early, a lot of people are catching up through buzz and word
of mouth," says FX Networks CEO John Landgraf, who says same-day
viewership is only one of several factors he uses to weigh the success
of a new series. "You really don't know what the story is for your show
until you're fairly downstream."
In the past, unscripted shows more often have been watched live.
"Reality television is more of a topical viewing experience, vs.
scripted, which requires more concentration, more engagement and less
distraction," says USA Network research chief Ted Linhart,
But even that's changing. While many top unscripted cable series averaged 25% DVR "lifts," E!'s Keeping Up with the Kardashians (airing on crowded Sundays) jumped 53% with delayed viewing added in, and the most recent season of MTV's Teen Mom added 46%, about the same percentage as Duck Dynasty.