Sleepy Hollow, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Enjoy C3 Ratings Boost

Overall, Premiere Week holds steady

The very first batch of C3 ratings for the 2013-14 broadcast season has been processed, and while the variance between the initial live-plus-same-day numbers and the currency was predictably unremarkable, there were some gold nuggets to be sifted out of the Nielsen data.

According to the seven days of currency data obtained by Adweek, the Premiere Week (Sept. 22-29) C3 numbers—a blend of average live commercial ratings and three days of DVR deliveries—were generally consistent with the original live-same-day ratings. As expected, front-runner NBC saw no change upon application of C3, finishing the week with a 3.1 rating in the adults 18-49 demo. ABC (2.3) and CBS (2.2) were also unchanged.

Only Fox showed a slight uptick from its original L+SD average (2.2), finishing the week with a 2.3 in the demo.

As we saw a year ago, the biggest gainers in C3 included two freshman series. Fox’s Sleepy Hollow jumped one-half of a ratings point, notching a 3.6 in the demo versus its original 3.1 rating. If nothing else, this suggests that Sleepy Hollow is a particularly viable environment for sponsors—after all, a 16 percent lift from L+SD to C3 proves that not only were viewers catching up with some help from their DVRs, but they were also watching the ads.

A similar result boosted the series premiere of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC. The show jumped from an already gaudy 4.7 in the demo on Sept. 24 to a 5.1 C3 rating. Both Sleepy and S.H.I.E.L.D. have been granted immunity from the ratings rat race, as Fox picked up a second season of its supernatural hit while ABC last week gave its collaboration with Marvel a back-nine order.

Other shows that improved significantly after the C3 data was processed were CBS’ Hostages, which improved three-tenths of a ratings point to a 2.1; Fox’s Glee, which grew from a 2.0 to a 2.3; and CBS’ Elementary, up three-tenths of a point to a 2.4.

For the most part, the higher-rated L+SD shows demonstrated a variance that ranged from minus two-tenths of a point to plus two-tenths. NBC’s Sept. 24 installment of The Voice, for example, dipped to a 4.4 C3 rating from its original 4.7, while both episodes of CBS’ top-rated Big Bang Theory slipped two-tenths (5.3 from a 5.5 and 5.9 from a 6.1). Again, that’s a function of viewers skipping ads during playback.

Of the backsliders, the season premiere of CBS’ How I Met Your Mother experienced the greatest discrepancy between its L+SD and C3 ratings, falling four-tenths of a point from a 3.7 to a 3.3.

The C3 data offered a semblance of encouragement for a handful of struggling new series. After premiering to a 1.8 in the demo, Fox’s comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine inched up to a more tenable 2.0 C3 rating. ABC’s imperiled Sunday night drama Betrayal gained two-tenths of a point, growing to a 1.7, but that’s probably not going to be enough to earn the newbie a stay of execution. Per fast national data, Betrayal last night drew a miserly 0.9 in the demo.

ABC’s new comedies showed no post-C3 change whatsoever, and CBS’ Mom was flat at a 2.5. The premiere of The Crazy Ones, however, grew from its already impressive 3.9 in the 18-49 demo, ticking up to a 4.1 in C3.

On opposite sides of the spectrum, NBC’s hit thriller The Blacklist ticked up one-tenth of a ratings point to a 3.9 C3 rating, while ABC’s decommissioned Lucky 7 actually fell from its already dismal 1.3 L+SD delivery, recording a 1.2 in C3.

Generally speaking, the first stream of C3 data is holding up when compared to last year’s initial load. NBC remained in first place with an average C3 rating of 3.1 in the demo, up a tick from the 3.0 it earned during the first week of the 2012-13 campaign. ABC was flat versus a year ago with a 2.3, Fox was down 8 percent to a 2.3 and CBS dipped a tenth of a point to a 2.2.

As buyers have been saying since the C3 currency was first adopted in 2007, the data against which the majority of ratings guarantees are made is statistically consistent with the live-same-day deliveries reported the afternoon after any given program’s original airdate. In other words, while the Big Four have been quick to point out the significant gains in viewership afforded by three and seven days of time shifting, those numbers do not take into consideration commercial deliveries … and are therefore effectively meaningless, from a marketplace perspective.

Or as BTIG Research analyst Rich Greenfield observed last fall, all the additional playback in the world doesn’t guarantee that anyone will actually watch the ads. “Watching live television is no longer top of mind, and watching commercials is laughed at,” Greenfield wrote in a note to investors. “Consumers have essentially been trained to avoid TV commercials.”

Overall TV usage remains more or less flat versus a year ago. Per Nielsen, Premiere Week HUT levels slipped 1.3 percent. Meanwhile, the graying of the broadcast audience continues apace, as CBS delivered a median age of 57.8 years in Premiere Week, while ABC (53.3 years) and NBC (50.8) were also over the Big Five-O mark. Even the relatively apple-cheeked Fox aged up 2.3 years, notching a median age of 46.1.