Ratings rise when counting weekend viewing

Turns out ABC’s “Lost” hasn’t lost as many viewers as reported in the weekly Nielsens.

True, the third-year Wednesday drama isn’t the ratings juggernaut it was in its first two seasons, but its weekly tallies are not taking into account a significant amount of DVR playback at a later date.

The next-day national estimates that Nielsen puts out recognizes all live viewing on a given night as well as same-day DVR playback (shows played in their entirety by 3 a.m. the next day).

But “Lost” is the leader of the pack when it comes to shows that benefit most from a second DVR playback window that Nielsen labels “live plus 7-day” averages — suggesting that auds are catching up with the show over the weekend.

As a result, the live adults 18-49 average for “Lost” since it moved to 10 o’clock in February (a first-place 5.0) becomes a 6.2 when all DVR playback within seven days is counted. In total viewers, “Lost’s” average rises from 11.7 million to 13.8 million.

These are surprisingly large jumps since DVR usage is still only in roughly 15% of American homes. But DVR users are wealthier and more educated than the typical viewer, so it makes sense that they are at the forefront of time-shifting their favorite shows, and in the process more likely to eschew the nets’ offerings on Friday and Saturday.

The 24% demo spike from “live” to “live plus 7-day” for “Lost” is the most for any current primetime show on broadcast television. NBC’s “Heroes” and “The Office” both see their 18-49 average climb by 18%, while Fox’s “24” and CW’s “One Tree Hill” rise by 17%.

Increasing by 15%-16% are NBC’s “Las Vegas,” “Friday Night Lights,” “The Apprentice” and “My Name Is Earl,” as well as CBS’ “Survivor.”

On top of Nielsen’s reported numbers, millions more viewers are believed to watch “Lost” episodes through “place-shifted” viewing via streaming replays on the network’s website, iPod downloads and on season DVDs.

The rub for ABC is that Madison Avenue isn’t quite sure what to make of DVR playback, with advertisers unwilling to pay the same top dollar for someone watching days after the initial broadcast, when they’re theoretically more inclined to fast-forward through commercials.

Stay tuned.

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