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Leno TiVo-Proof? Not So, Says TiVo

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Now that the TV-cost-reduction experiment otherwise known as The Jay Leno Show is in its third week, the numbers are starting to accumulate. After a big debut, his average nightly take has been bouncing around 6 million or so—above, but not a lot above, the 5 million he averaged on Tonight—depending on the strength of his NBC lead-in and the interest in his guests. That’s in line with a lot of guesses I’d been hearing over the summer, that Leno might end up 10% or so above his late-night rating, but it’s too early to know whether his ratings stay there.

NBC had also claimed Leno would be “TiVo-proof”: fans would feel compelled to watch it live, and thus watch the commercials, making it a better deal for advertisers. This morning TiVo reported some figures, based on data from its users. Its answer: not exactly.

On the one hand, TiVo, reported, Leno does seem to have fewer viewers “timeshifting” than did NBC’s 10 p.m. shows last season: 46% compared with over 70%. That’s still almost half, though. More worrisomely, Leno’s time-shifters are more than twice as likely to watch his show within an hour of its airing. That’s just enough time to skip the commercials, yet miss the local 11 p.m. news and Conan O’Brien, the two programs that had most to fear from Leno’s effect on their ratings.

Of course, TiVo is an interested party—so, you think you’re TiVo-proof? We’ll see about that! And its vice president of audience research calls the Leno numbers “half full or half empty” for NBC. But producers for local news and Tonight will be watching their own numbers, anxious that Leno’s half-full/empty glass does not get dumped over their own heads.

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