ABC’s new conspiracy drama Quantico hinted at its delayed viewing potential in its very first airing, posting the biggest percentage Live+3 lift of any series — new or returning — during premiere week. It was just getting warmed up. In adults 18-49, the terrorism drama starring Priyanka Chopra has posted eye-popping increases of 63%, 74%, 94% 81%, 87%, 117%, 115%, 123% and 100% for its first nine episodes, respectively. In Live+7, the gains for the first eight episodes currently available were 79%, 89%, 113%, 100%, 107%, 133% and 131%, with Episode 8 posting a record 138%.

Quantico_ChartHow staggering are these numbers? The freshman ABC drama now holds the top five spots for the biggest L+3 percentage lifts on the major networks in 18-49 and the top seven largest L+3 increases in total viewers. In L+7, Quantico has delivered the season’s top three biggest L+7 lifts on the major nets.

It has been hard for observers to pinpoint the reasons for such extraordinary DVR performance. The 10 PM shows traditionally are more prone to delayed viewing because of the late start time, with the 10 PM hour often usL7STDquanticoed by viewers to watch programs already recorded on their DVRs. But if we look at the top 10 programs in average absolute L+7 lift for the season — actually the top 14, with five shows tied at No. 10 — of the 14, only four are 10 PM shows, Blindspot (No. 4), Quantico (No. 5), How To Get Away With Murder (No. 6) and Chicago Fire (No. 10).

There are additional circumstances on Sunday, with strong competition from football and AMC’s combo of The Walking Dead at 9 PM and Talking Dead at 10 PM. There is evidence that a substantial portion of Quantico‘s audience are football fans who watch Sunday Night Football live and the ABC drama on DVR or on-demand. Quantico‘s Live+Same Day and L+3/L+7 ratings all dipped starting October 11, when the new season of TWD premiered, with the lost L+SD audience not exactly spilling into delayed viewing whose trajectory followed approximately that of the L+SD ratings.

Quantico, possibly helped by an encore airing of the premiere episode on Tuesday, accomplished something few shows have been able to do, a Week 2 growth in both L+3 and L+7. The upward trend may have continued had it not been for TWD‘s return to the Sunday lineup the following week.

QuanticoL35cleanQuantico is considered a younger-skewing show that does well in adults 18-34 who traditionally favor delayed vs. live viewing. In addition to DVR, the soapy drama also does well in multiplatform viewing, posting the largest overall percentage lift, +196%, in Live+35. In on-demand/online consumption alone, Quantico averages a 1.73 18-49 rating, higher than any other ABC drama, which is not a small feat given that the network has a very strong drama on-demand field with such juggernauts as How To Get Away With Murder, Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy. 

Some attribute Quantico‘s extraordinary delayed-viewing lifts to the fact that it is a new kid on the block on Sunday, with loyal fans first watching their longtime favorites and the newbie getting on the DVR or left for online viewing. Quantico also did not get any help in Live+Same Day in the lead-in department, with Blood & Oil fizzling. If the plucky show managed to log ratings so solid without a lead-in, against football and TWD in the fall, observers are optimistic about its prospects in the spring, in which it will no longer be an unknown newcomer. It will follow new drama The Family starring Joan Allen, which is believed to be a more suitable lead-in, and will no longer face NFL as well as TWD (the latter past April 3). Less competition and a stronger lead-in on Sunday may mean a larger portion of Quantico‘s fans watching the show on premiere night, leading to smaller delayed viewing lifts. ABC would gladly take that.