Network Ratings Don’t Take a Holiday

Author:
Publish date:
Updated on

Memorial Day and Labor Day are not typically considered
optimal nights to launch big blockbuster movies
and miniseries, as television viewers typically spend the
three-day weekend finishing up outdoor activities or returning
from vacation.

But A+E Networks-owned services History and A&E
have found ratings gold during the two holiday evenings
with high-profile projects that have generated big audiences
amid little to
no competition from
broadcast or cable
networks.

A&E this Labor
Day will look to garner
big ratings for the
two-night miniseries
Coma after its sister service History drew record numbers
for the Memorial Day debut of its three-part miniseries
Hatfields & McCoys. A&E executives say summer
holiday evenings are fertile ground for generating big
audiences.

LAST HURRAH

“The nights of Labor Day and Memorial Day have always
been [among] our most watched nights of the
year,” Bob DeBitetto, president and general manager of
A&E and Bio Channel, said. “It’s the last hurrah before
the summer is over and people do watch a lot of television
that night. Because we have an overall larger audience
available we generally see good ratings.”

The network has had success with other miniseries
during the summer holidays. In 2008, the network’s scifi
-themed Andromeda Strain averaged 4.8 million viewers
on Memorial Day and another 5 million viewers the
next night.

History had record ratings success this past Memorial
Day with Hatfields, which profiled the legendary family
feud. The Kevin Costner-starrer averaged a record
13.7 million viewers for a cable miniseries, including 13.1
million during its Memorial Day premiere.

Memorial Day 2011 was also memorable for History,
drawing 3.8 million viewers for the docudrama
Gettysburg.

“That Monday is really like a viewing Sunday, where
families are together and there are really good HUT
(homes using television) levels that weekend ... It’s not
like a 4th of July, where people are out during the evening,”
Dirk Hoogstra, senior vice president of development
and programming for History, said. “With our
previous track record, we felt that this was the best spot
for it, and we’ve done a lot of research on how we rated.”

Hoogstra said the History’s Memorial Day projects
have also benefited from little or no competition from
cable or broadcast networks, which tend to schedule
marathons of their best shows or series repeats over
long holiday weekends. He expects such strategies to
change in the near future.

“I don’t think that networks will shy away from Memorial
Day anymore,” he said. “I think Hatfields put
a big spotlight on the opportunity that we’ve known
about for sometime.”

The network is already gearing up for its next big Memorial
Day blockbuster, but would not reveal a specific
project.

“We definitely want to continue to utilize that opportunity
— unfortunately, we’ll probably have more competition
that we’re used to.”

While DeBitetto wouldn’t predict a ratings number
for Coma — starring Geena Davis, Richard Dreyfuss,
James Woods and Ellen Burstyn in a remake of the 1978
thriller — he said the minseries’ Sept. 3 Labor Day premiere
will help the series stand out from more repeatoriented
cable fare.

“There’s a conspiracy and something going on that
doesn’t quite add up, and at the end of the day it turns
into a thriller with someone on the run for their life,”
he said. “We think that’s a great popcorn kind of summer
event, and Coma had those elements that we were
looking for.”

The series will benefit from promotion throughout
the summer on A&E’s highly-rated original scripted and
reality summer series, such as Longmire and The Glades,
he added.

“It gives us an opportunity to finish the summer with
a bang,” he said.

TAKEAWAY

A+E Networks-owned
channels have found ratings
success by launching
high-profile originals over
holiday weekends.

Related