LOS ANGELES (AP) — Audience ratings for broadcast TV networks are down at the start of the fall season. A common culprit? The DVR.
On recent quarterly earnings calls, CBS Corp. Chief Executive Les Moonves and The Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger both blamed digital video recorders for cutting into live TV ratings.
Currently The Nielsen Co. rates shows based on the live audience that shows up when a show first airs on TV and then counts three days of viewing on DVRs, a metric known as "C3."
Moonves and Iger both called for the industry to give networks credit for four more days on top of that to help boost the number of viewers they get credit for, in a standard called "C7."
More viewers counted would mean more advertising dollars for media companies.
QUESTION: Bob, as you've been around broadcast networks a long time, it just seems to make sense if I ask you this question: What do you think is happening to the start of the season? Everyone is worried about broadcast over the years. Is this declining kind of the ratings something that you think is going to be fixed over the course of the season or are you more worried than that?
RESPONSE: Well, I think the story of the year (is) really two things. One, the greater penetration of DVRs and the greater usage of DVRs, which clearly, have shifted the rating in the direction of C3. And ultimately, hopefully, C7. Because I think it speaks for an expanded look from a Nielsen and advertising perspective at seven days versus three. And I think the other story is that there seems to be somewhat of an absence of what I'll call new big, real sort of buzz-worthy hits. And because of that, I would say that it would be premature to either write the epitaph or suggest that we're seeing a trend. We've seen years where the presence of a big hit — by the way, as in the case with NBC, if you look at the impact of "The Voice" on their schedule, it's improved their numbers dramatically. So, I think — I happen to believe that ABC's schedule is pretty solid. Their Sunday schedule with "Once Upon a Time" and "Revenge" is working, and they've got "Modern Family" and "Grey's (Anatomy)" and others. It shows some real strong base. And their ratings from a C3 perspective without sports are down in the 7 percent to 8 percent range, which I don't consider to be that noteworthy. What I'd like (is for) ABC to put on the schedule a really big hit at the beginning of the year, of course. But they put on a few shows that are, I think, quite serviceable and have potential, "Nashville" being one.