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HBO to Stop Issuing Overnight TV Ratings in Favor of Live Plus 7

HBO is making a statement with a policy shift as of Jan. 1 to issue only ratings from Nielsen’s Live Plus 7 measure.

That means no more next-day ratings report on HBO shows, at least not from HBO itself. The Live Plus Same Day numbers will still be available through Nielsen, and HBO’s competitors, but the pay cable giant aims to send a message about the growing importance of evaluating a show’s performance aafter viewers have had a week to catch up with a program on various platforms.

HBO joins FX in the effort to de-emphasize the overnight numbers, which are still the source of much media coverage as it relates to a program’s performance. FX earlier this year made the decision to only issue Live Plus 3 ratings for series premieres.

As a premium cabler, HBO avoids the business issue that bedevils ad-supported networks — the fact that advertisers pay only for viewing done within the L3 time frame. But as a matter of bragging rights, HBO and every other network are seeing big audience swings away from live viewership. Even a broad-based hit like “Game of Thrones” (pictured) derives a solid proportion of its viewers from VOD, DVR and streaming plays, as well as reruns across HBO’s suite of channels.

Waiting to capture most of the time-shifted viewing done on major platforms in the L7 measure before issuing a number gives nets a better sense of how many viewers are drawn to a program — and a better chance to declare a show a hit. The biggest drawback is that the L7 ratings aren’t available until nearly two weeks after a program’s premiere airing.

HBO’s decision also comes as it prepares to roll out three new and returning series next month: “Girls,” “Togetherness” and “Looking.”

“HBO subscribers have available to them an array of entry points to watch our programming – HBO linear feeds, DVR, HBO On Demand and HBO Go – and a single airing is no longer representative of an HBO show’s true audience size,” HBO said in a statement. “Today, it is common for final gross-audience figures to grow anywhere from five to 10 times viewership after an initial airing. With this in mind, starting in 2015, HBO viewership figures will first be made available by us approximately two weeks after a program’s premiere, compiling LIVE+7 Nielsen and preliminary HBO On Demand and HBO Go data.”

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