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Later DVR viewing boosts some shows

“Modern Family” (with Eric Stonestreet Jesse Tyler FergusSofiVergara) is popular playback for DVR users.

“Modern Family” (with Eric Stonestreet, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Sofia Vergara) is a popular playback for DVR users.

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Updated: July 18, 2012 6:18AM

The increasing usage of digital video recorders, which easily allow viewers to postpone viewing of their favorite shows, has vastly complicated the math of TV ratings, new Nielsen data shows.

And it explains how ABC’s “Modern Family” ultimately eclipsed Fox’s “American Idol” among key young-adult audiences.

In final season rankings released last week, “Family,” already one of TV’s top shows, added an average of nearly 5 million viewers in the seven days after new Wednesday episodes aired against “Idol.” That’s the biggest gain for any series, for a total of 16.7 million viewers.

Among viewers ages 18 to 49, the comedy jumped 48 percent when factoring in delayed viewing, while “Idol’s” performance show gained just 17 percent.

People rarely delay their viewing of reality shows, news, awards telecasts and sports programming by more than a day. Sitcoms and dramas are most prone to procrastination, accounting for 29 of the top 30 gainers.

Nielsen says 44 percent of homes now have DVRs, and though the adoption rate has slowed recently, those who have the devices are using them more often. Just 47 percent of viewing by young-adult DVR users was live, down from 61 percent four years earlier.

That’s made delayed viewing a bigger piece of the total ratings puzzle, and left networks more patient with seemingly low-rated shows. The audience for Fox’s Friday sci-fi drama “Fringe,” for example, surged 55 percent (and a stunning 73 percent among young adults) once viewing up to six days later was factored in.

Gannett News Service

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