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DVRs Give More Shows a Lifeline

The digital video recorder was supposed to lay waste to network television. Instead the playback device is offering some shows a lifeline — so much so that network programmers now factor in ratings a full week after a show’s scheduled appearance.

Currently, networks are paid by advertisers only for how many viewers watch the commercials in their shows over the first three days after a show is broadcast — a model known as “commercial plus three” (C3) ratings. But networks are monitoring how shows do over a full week after they are broadcast to gauge the depth of audience interest and loyalty. And, though they are not pressing the issue, they would eventually like to persuade advertisers to take more notice, as well.

“Absolutely it matters,” said David F. Poltrack, the chief research officer for CBS, about the “live plus seven days” ratings.

It certainly mattered for the Fox drama “Fringe,” which the network’s top programmer, Kevin Reilly, already renewed in late March for a fourth season.

Had he renewed the show based only on the ratings that arrive the morning after each “Fringe” episode, Mr. Reilly would have been considered borderline delusional.

For its broadcast on Friday nights, “Fringe” manages only about a 1.7 rating (about 2.24 million viewers) among the 18- to 49-year-olds that Fox pursues (because most of its advertisers seek to reach that group).

That number walks right up to the cancellation line. But the tally jumps to a 2.5 rating (about 3.3 million viewers) by the time a week’s worth of recorded playback is included, a number that qualifies as satisfactory for most current television dramas — and robust for any show on a Friday.

“More and more our obsession has to be how to engage and count viewers wherever they are,” Mr. Reilly said. “If that’s on a DVR, that counts too.”

“Fringe,” a cult science-fiction show, would seem to fit the profile for a program ripe for time-shifting. But the adult drama “Parenthood” on NBC also gets a big boost from seven days of additional viewing — probably enough to guarantee it a renewal as well.

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