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October 13, 2012

DVR viewing gives fall TV shows a critical ratings boost


The blah ratings are also producing stasis among the four big broadcasters. At the moment, NBC is off to its best start in nine years, largely due to the strength of “Sunday Night Football.” But at week’s end, networks often find themselves separated by differences of only a tenth of a rating point or two, with no clear leader in sight.

Even with the boost from DVRs, some shows are making their way to the junk pile — just as they do every fall. CBS this week yanked “Made in Jersey,” a legal drama created by former Los Angeles Times writer Dana Calvo. The premiere drew 7.8 million total viewers, with a paltry 568,000 added through DVR viewing.

Also weak based on early ratings: Fox’s drama “The Mob Doctor,” the CBS sitcom “Partners” and ABC’s thriller “666 Park Avenue.”

On the other hand, some modestly rated new series have already been rewarded with full-season orders, including NBC’s comedies “Go On” and “The New Normal” and the Fox sitcoms “The Mindy Project” and “Ben & Kate.” Networks may be more willing to take a flier on sitcoms than dramas, however, because comedies are cheaper to produce and can be more lucrative and longer-lasting if they grow into hits.

Low-rated but long-lasting shows may be TV’s new normal. That’s because executives are figuring how to tally up a decent-sized audience that can be sold to advertisers across every conceivable platform, from flat screens to smartphones, according to Stuart McLean of Content & Co., which helps advertisers develop programming options that fit their brands.

“The days of premieres and early numbers, that’s fading away quite rapidly. It is about aggregation,” McLean said.

As for viewers, he added: “Who cares when they watch?”

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