Analysis spans the past four years

DVR viewing is a boon to the broadcast networks. That’s one of the conclusions in a report issued Wednesday by influential Wall Street analyst Michael Nathanson of Nomura Securities.

In an analysis of DVR viewing over the past four years, Nathanson found that the split of viewing between broadcast and cable nets is nearly 50-50 among DVR users, compared to a 75%-25% split in favor of cablers for live viewing.

The TV biz’s shift in 2008 from live program ratings to so-called C3 ratings — ratings for commercials on live broadcasts as well as that done within three days of DVR playback — as the currency for advertising deals has also been a good thing for broadcasters, Nathanson argues. Viewers tend to stick with the commercials running in broadcast network programming more so than most cablers.

“The shift to C3 measurement, along with the continued rollout of DVRs, will improve the relative positioning of the broadcast networks — and the conglomerates that own them — and certain cable networks that have built appointment viewing,” he wrote. It’s also providing a lifeline for shows like Fox’s “Fringe” that deliver modest numbers live but are popular in DVR homes.

The lift provided by the additional three days of playback in the C3 measure has significantly slowed the rate of decline in adults 18-49 rating for the Big Four. And the percentage of DVR viewing in the total 18-49 ratings is growing at a fast clip, as DVR penetration expands. According to Nielsen, 42% of U.S. TV households have DVRs, up from 38% last season.

In the 2008-09 season, adults 18-49 C3 ratings for the Big Four were up 3% over live ratings in the same measure; last season, the C3 numbers were up 9.7%.Surprisingly, Nathan’s research also indicates that fewer DVR users are using the device’s commercial-skipping feature — a technology that was once seen as the death-knell of advertising supported TV. According to Nathanson, 58.8% of programs watched via DVR playback involved commercial skipping in the 2007-8 season; by last season, that number had dropped to 50.7%

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