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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "American Idol", already America's most watched television series, was also the most time-shifted prime-time TV program in the United States in 2008, ratings tracker The Nielsen Company said on Tuesday.
An extra four million viewers watched the Fox network's "American Idol" in the seven days following the initial episodes, which aired two nights each week. The numbers belie the notion that live competition and topical programs are what advertisers call "digital video recorder (DVR) proof".
The TV industry is grappling with major upheavals brought by new digital technology which has seen increasing numbers of Americans taping programs to watch later, thereby skipping through expensive commercials.
Topical programs including reality shows with a competitive element had been thought by networks and advertisers to be relatively immune to the time-shifting trend.
In fact, NBC said last week that chat-show host Jay Leno's move to primetime next year would be "somewhat DVR-proof" because the program revolves around news and jokes of the day.
"American Idol", which returns for its 8th season in January, got an average live audience of 28 million in 2008.
Next on Nielsen's list of prime-time programs that saw the biggest increase in audience numbers in time-shifted playback during the year were NBC's "Heroes" and ABC's "Lost."
But the winners in percentage terms were lesser-known "Battlestar Galactica" (with a 53 percent ratings increase), followed by cable channel USA's spy drama "Burn Notice" (37 percent increase), "Heroes," and "90210" on the CW channel, which both saw a 35 percent increase in audience ratings when DVR viewing was calculated.
Nielsen said about 27 percent of U.S. homes from which it samples viewing habits now have DVRs.
Fox is owned by News Corp, NBC by a division of General Electric Co. and ABC by The Walt Disney Co..
Reporting by Jill Serjeant