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The DVR Difference: Big Gains for Cult Shows

”Dollhouse,“ ”Smallville,“ ”Fringe“ get major boosts — but ”Grey’s“ is still No. 1.

DVR data for premiere week is out, and there’s good news for some struggling shows.

Fox’s "Dollhouse" and "Fringe," both of which have had a tough time of it in the ratings this season, do dramatically better when factoring in viewers who watch via DVR within seven days of the shows’ original broadcasts. The same is true of the CW’s "Supernatural" and "Melrose Place."

According to Nielsen data released today, both "Dollhouse" and "Smallville" added 50 percent more adults 18-49 from DVR viewership (live plus same day vs. live plus seven day). "Fringe" went up 39 percent, while "Melrose" was up 37.5 percent.

Of course, the percentage gains were over relatively small bases. "Dollhouse" and "Smallville," for example, went from a 1.0 rating to a 1.5 when DVR viewing is counted– still pretty puny, but a sign that there’s more of a viewership base for those shows than overnight ratings would suggest.

ABC, which won premiere week in the overnight ratings, had shows which added the most actual number of viewers when DVRs are included.

"Grey’s Anatomy," TV’s No. 1 scripted show premiere week, jumped from 17 million to 20 million viewers. That increase of 3 million viewers was the most of any network series. Newcomer "Flash Forward" added 2 million to its tally, more than any other new show.

Some other DVR highlights:

–"Heroes" is still a very DVR-friendly show: It jumps 32 percent in adults 18-49 ratings. But the supposedly unhip NBC warhorse "Law & Order" does even better with DVR viewers, adding 33 percent more viewers than watch in its Friday death slot. "L&O: SVU," banished to Wednesdays at 9, increases 19 percent.

–Fox’s "Bones" has done just fine with same-day viewers Thursdays at 8. But it’s doing even better when DVR data is figured in– 29 percent better, to be exact.

–CBS’s "Big Bang Theory" is a complete juggernaut in live plus seven, soaring to a stunning 5.6 rating with adults 18-49. That’s up 19 percent.