The Most Time-Shifted Shows of the Fall Season

11 TV Programs Regularly Watched Up to Seven Days Later

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NEW YORK ( -- The ability to delay viewing of TV shows by using a digital video recorder is giving rise to noticeably different habits, according to new research from Horizon Media.

Through November 2009, 11 fall season programs were regularly "time-shifted," or watched as many as seven days after the date of original air, by more than 3 million viewers, said Brad Adgate, the independent media-buying firm's senior VP-research. Last year at this time, only three programs -- ABC's "Grey's Anatomy," Fox's "House" and CBS's "CSI" -- fit that bill.

Fox's 'House' was the most time-shifted show of the fall season, with 5,038,000 views.
Fox's 'House' was the most time-shifted show of the fall season, with 5,038,000 views. Credit: Michael Yarish/FOX
The trend is cause for scrutiny among TV outlets and advertisers, because the more people who watch TV programs longer after they air, the more difficult it is to reach them with a timely ad pitch. While futurists project one day advertisers may well be able to insert more relevant advertising into recorded programming, these days marketers remain concerned that ads for particular events -- Friday-night movie openings and weekend sales at retail outlets -- amount to naught when consumers watch them five or six days after they were intended to run.

Yet time-shifted audiences for some of TV's best-known programs continue to rise, according to Horizon's Mr. Adgate. He said "House" was the most time-shifted program through November 2009, with more than 5 million viewers using a DVR. Last year, "House" had a time-shifted audience of 3.3 million. The number of viewers who are time-shifting "House" rose by more than 1.7 million, or 51%, Mr. Adgate said.

Likewise, ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" was time-shifted by nearly 5 million viewers through November 2009, compared with more than 4 million viewers for the year-earlier period. Horizon said the number of people time-shifting "Grey's Anatomy" grew by 926,000, or 23%.

Not surprisingly, TV's most popular programs are the ones that are time-shifted the most. Among first-year shows, "V" is the most time-shifted with over 3.5 million viewers, and "Flash Forward," "Glee" and "Modern Family" are all time-shifted by more than 2.5 million viewers over a seven-day period.

Even so, programs that appeal to younger audiences are the ones that appear to have the highest percentages of total viewers who time-shift. Among the 10 shows with highest percentage of total viewers that time-shifted, four are on Fox and four are on the CW, Mr. Adgate said. That group differs from the list below, which notes the most regularly time-shifted shows with the largest audiences.

The 11 most time-shifted TV shows, through Nov. 2009

1 Fox's "House" 5,038,000
2 ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" 4,968,000
3 NBC's "The Office" 3,810,000
4 CBS's "NCIS" 3,588,000
5 CBS's "The Mentalist" 3,577,000
6 ABC's "V" 3,566,000
7 ABC's "Deperate Housewives" 3,355,000
8 CBS's "The Big Bang Theory" 3,219,000
9 CBS's "Survivor: Samoa" 3,112,000
10 ABC's "FlashForward" 3,098,000
11 CBS's "Criminal Minds" 3,075,000
*Number of people who time-shifted over 7 days
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