‘Scandal,’ Other 10 p.m. Hits Fighting DVR Gravity This Fall

Scandal DVR ratings

Shows airing in primetime's final hour are seeing easily the biggest gains in playback

ABC’s “Scandal” fell to a season low Thursday night, while CBS’ “Elementary” hovered near its nadir. And earlier in the week, even NBC’s “Blacklist” — the strongest and most consistent rookie this fall — was down a couple of ticks.

Fans of these shows have to be scratching their heads over why the ratings for their faves are falling even though they remain among TV’s buzziest shows and their perceived quality has remained consistent.

Big sports competition (especially from the NFL) is partly to blame, as scripted series typically take a back seat to live action in our DVR world. But it’s also because these series air at 10 p.m., and shows scheduled for this time are seeing record DVR playback this fall — at percentages much larger than those airing earlier in the evening.

The 2013-14 television season was already shaping up to be something of a tipping-point in DVR usage: Roughly 48% of Nielsen’s national sample is now comprised of homes equipped with DVRs, and among adults 18-49, that percentage is up to 51%. This means that more than half the audience the networks are targeting has the ability to time-shift their favorite programs.

Unlike reality shows and comedies that air in the 8 o’clock and 9 o’clock hours, dramas in general see higher gains in time-shifting. And it only stands to reason that the shows airing at 10 p.m., and thus having less time to be watched before Nielsen’s 3 a.m. “same-night” cutoff, are going to suffer the most in ratings that come out the next day.

This year, FX’s first-year drama “The Bridge” (which aired Wednesday at 10) became the first show to derive more than half of its 18-49 audience from DVR playback done in the seven days after its linear airing. But based on the trend this fall, it won’t be long before 10 p.m. series on ABC, CBS and NBC start gaining 100% or more too.

SEE ALSO: FX’s “Bridge” at Center of DVR Revolution

If “DVR Playback” was a show, this fall it would be averaging a 6.8 rating in adults 18-49 from 10 to 11 p.m. — about double the rating of top shows in the hour like “The Blacklist,” “Scandal” and “Duck Dynasty” —  and 14.1 million total viewers.

Most primetime series tend to post their best numbers of the season with their premiere, and that’s the night when more viewing than usual is done live or later the same night. As high a priority isn’t placed on watching subsequent episodes in the same manner, and this can drive down the ratings fans see the day after a show airs.

This fall, according to Nielsen data compiled by CBS, 10 p.m. programs on average are posting the largest percentage lifts of any broadcast series (41%). By comparison, the rise is 29% for programs airing in the 9 p.m. hour, and 21% for 8 o’clock shows.

Six dramas airing at 10 p.m. are gaining more than 1 full ratings point in adults 18-49 this fall, up from four a year ago. And in total viewers, four 10 p.m. dramas are rising by 4 million viewers or more, up from just one last year.

Through the four weeks of the season for which L+7 data is available, CBS’ “Elementary” is the biggest 18-49 gainer among 10 p.m. shows by percentage (rising 78%), and NBC’s “Blacklist” is the biggest by total lift (1.9 ratings points).


Adults 18-49
Elementary (CBS)                  1.9      3.4         78%
Hostages (CBS)                     1.4      2.4         71%
Parenthood (NBC)                  1.4      2.4         71%
Nashville (ABC)                      1.8      3.0         67%
The Mentalist (CBS)               1.4      2.3         64%
The Blacklist (NBC)              3.3      5.2        58%
Castle (ABC)                         2.2      3.4         55%
Person of Interest (CBS)         2.1      3.2         52%
Chicago Fire (NBC)                2.4       3.6         50%
CSI (CBS)                             2.0       3.0         50%

Total Viewers
Parenthood (NBC)                4.27m       6.72m      58%
Elementary (CBS)                9.29m     14.08m      52%
The Blacklist (NBC)           11.51m    17.37m      51%
Hostages (CBS)                    5.93m       8.89m      50%
Nashville (ABC)                    6.02m        8.92m      48%
Chicago Fire (NBC)               8.29m       11.77m       42%
Castle (ABC)                      11.00m       15.28m       39%
Scandal (ABC)                    9.68m        13.35m       38%
Betrayal (ABC)                   3.86m          5.32m       38%
The Mentalist (CBS)            8.83m         12.08m      37%

bolded shows are seeing the biggest total lifts

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  1. Mike Land says:

    Its fine and dandy to watch it later or the next day as long as the viewer takes in the spots. But you know if they have certain receivers they are hitting the “hop” button to get around them. DVR is here to stay so the networks need to just embrace the use and not fear it. For me, I record direct to DVD and pause the commercials. That way I have pretty much the series DVD for later viewing when there’s nothing but crap on.

  2. Hopefully this can be addressed some day. Almost everyone I know watches Scandal but it comes on too late so they have to TiVo (DVR) the show and watch it on Friday night. The ratings for Scandal are no where close to accurate. ABC don’t be fooled.

  3. Kevin says:

    Why the hell don’t the ratings allow for DVR viewing?

  4. U cant B Sirius says:

    MARY are you a P.R. person for “BETRAYAL” or know someone associated with this Thanksgiving Treat (TURKEY)?

  5. Frank W says:

    I know I’m watching most 10 pm shows either on demand or DVR. Person of Interest is DVRd, but most of the time I am able to catch it live

    • mary says:

      I wish you were watching B.etrayal…nine here for me…it is soooo good. People are really missing out on a good one. ..Sunday nights

  6. mary says:

    hopefully my favorite show…..Betrayal….will rise more. People are really missing one great show….Stuart Townsend is sooo good…..good cast settings….super music by BT and Michael DiMattia.

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