Are we killing these shows with our dvr's?
It seems like this sites population is generally disappointed with most of the cancellations. Is it possible that the dvr using public is having an adverse affect on the ratings of these shows?
Forgive me for this long response, but it is a matter that I feel strongly about.
The reality is "Prime Suspect" wasn't being watched live by many in the 18-34 male demo.
As of 2012, advertisers love shows that draw age 18-34 males watching live commercials. Apparently they are now the hardest to find watching broadcast TV in prime time. And they are deemed more easily influenced by advertising. If you watch the syfy/fantasy genre shows now on such as "Once Upon a Time" and "Alcatraz" you may have noted that ads from the gaming universe are appearing more and more frequently.
Look at the cast in "Prime Suspect" and try to figure out which member was hired to appeal to age 18-34 males. (Yes it matters what the cast looks like and if you don't care you aren't among the group that will determine whether a show will survive - get over it even though I haven't.) Look at the recurring story lines and try to figure out how it will appeal to the average age 18-34 male. (Yes, complex scripts with emotion-filled relationships are death to a show on broadcast TV - get over it even though I haven't.)
The fact that a Nielsen household DVR's a show is in the data available to those that pay for data - namely the channels. But they tell Nielsen what reports they will pay for and right now only live viewing, live+same day, and live+7 days are of any interest. That's because they use this info to peddle their advertising time to advertisers.
If you occasionally watch PBS you'll note that some advertising is appearing. These advertisers are unusual in that the company's executives want to be associated with production value quality.
Most other advertisers have different goals that are simple - they want to know (a) if you watch their ads and (
if you do you might be influenced by the ads. And because of the latter issue, it makes the choices disturbing IMHO. If you have reached the age of 50 they don't give a crap about whether you watch the show, the ads, or the sunset out the window (which means my wife and I wouldn't be considered worth anything by most high-paying prime time advertisers).
The channel folks try to use live+7 days data to help sell to advertisers. Advertisers are telling them that data isn't worth much because all the evidence indicates DVR viewing means skipped advertising.
So here in our home we are old and watch everything via DVR and mostly at least a day or two after it was recorded. We are in a demo that if we didn't exist it would not matter for broadcast TV. But....
We pay for higher tier cable packages and premium channel packages to get decent programming. That money flow a few years ago caught the attention of News Corp (Fox), Disney (ABC), NBCU (NBC) and CBS (which is also half owner of The CW). Hence all the retransmission fee negotiations and Fox basically eliminating all affliliates where the owner would agree to pay them $1 a month per cable/satellite subscriber.
That's the way the TV biz is in 2012.
TVbytheNumbers has a very good and a somewhat entertaining analysis of all this at Numbers 102
and they have retained the dry explanation Numbers 101