Difficulty in determining what, exactly, attracts eyes and drives revenue isn’t exactly new. In his book “The Hollywood Economist,” Edward Jay Epstein highlighted the emergence of harder-to-parse home video and DVD markets as a way studios massaged the bottom line. A movie that might have been a flop in theaters had a chance for second life in the home video marketplace; for a while, as that DVD revenue flowed in, it was almost hard to lose money on a movie.
When it comes to home viewing, TiVo and the DVR revolution reduced our ability to rely on ratings data. These technologies supercharged a practice that was previously a hassle: time-shifting (i.e., watching a show after it airs) and advertisement-skipping by recording programs on VHS. Once DVRs were commonplace, live viewership numbers measured by Nielsen failed to be of much use. Now the important metric was now live-plus-three, or the number