TV ratings report: DVRs make the rich (and poor) richer

ellenpompeo_greysanatomy_s6_290.jpgAbout a third of American homes with televisions now also have at least one DVR, so it's no surprise that the seven-day DVR ratings would grow by more than they did at this time last year.

Nor is it really a huge surprise that the most-watched shows on live TV -- at least those that aren't sporting events -- also tend to gain the most in terms of raw numbers of viewers in DVR. That's been the pattern for the past couple of seasons, and it was the case for the first week of the 2009-10 season.

Nielsen has released its "live plus 7" numbers for the first official week of the season (Sept. 21-27) and in general the shows at the top of the same-day ratings are also at the top of the seven-day list too. "Grey's Anatomy" was the biggest gainer in raw numbers, adding 2.97 million viewers from its same-day total, while "The Mentalist" picked up an additional 2.95 million people.

The biggest gainers in terms of percentages are farther down the ratings: "Dollhouse" grew by 36.5 percent (2.5 million to 3.42 million), and "Fringe" went up by 34.1 percent (5.77 million to 7.73 million). Thirteen shows grew by 20 percent or more during premiere week.

Adding viewers is never a bad thing. But none of the biggest biggest percentage gainers is now suddenly a hit as a result. "Fringe" and "NCIS" each added about the same amount of people, but because "NCIS" was starting off at a much higher level (20.6 million), the 1.93 million viewers it gained is a much smaller percentage of the total.

The DVR numbers also don't necessarily mean a ton to advertisers, since DVRs also let people skip commercials (advertisers tend to use "C3" ratings, which measures how many people actually watch an ad within three days of its airing, as the standard for setting ad rates). The seven-day numbers could, however, help indicate which borderline shows might be worth supporting.

It's also pretty clear that a crowded night of TV makes for a lot of DVR use -- six of the top 10 shows in terms of viewers added aired on Thursday night.

Below are the top 10 shows in the seven-day ratings for Sept. 21-27 in total viewers added; this gallery has the leaders by percentage.

  1. "Grey's Anatomy": 17.06 million to 20.03 million viewers, added 2.97 million
  2. "The Mentalist": 15.09 million to 18.04 million, added 2.95 million
  3. "House": 17.27 million to 20.15 million, added 2.88 million
  4. "CSI": 16.04 million to 18.26 million, added 2.22 million
  5. "FlashForward": 12.5 million to 14.47 million, added 1.97 million
  6. "Fringe": 5.77 million to 7.73 million, added 1.97 million
  7. "NCIS": 20.61 million to 22.54 million, added 1.93 million
  8. "Criminal Minds": 15.85 million to 17.76 million, added 1.91 million
  9. "CSI: Miami": 14.22 million to 16.12 million, added 1.9 million
  10. "Bones": 9.15 million to 11.02 million, added 1.87 million

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'Dollhouse,' 'Fringe,' 'Melrose Place': The most-DVR'd shows of premiere week
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