Summer's Hottest Night: How Cable Series Make Tuesdays Sizzle


Tuesday nights are shaping up to be basic cable’s big night out.

The largest networks
are rolling out some of
their most popular scripted series
on what is the most competitive
night of the week during the
hot summer months. Tuesdays
are already generating the highest
percentage of homes watching
television (HUT) this summer, as
viewers settle in front of their TV
sets after an extended weekend of
barbecues and beach outings.

USA Network, the most-watched
basic-cable service last summer,
will debut the new spy series Covert
in the competitive 10
p.m. time slot on July 13, against
veteran FX drama Rescue Me (premiering
June 29) and TNT’s new
detective drama series Memphis
(debuting June 22).

“There’s no safe place to launch
anywhere anymore, so you have
to take your risks, and Tuesdays
have worked amazingly well for
us,” said NBC Universal Entertainment
and Universal Cable
Productions president Bonnie
Hammer, who heads up USA.

Hammer said USA isn’t overly
concerned about launching the
new series — which stars Piper
Perabo as a young CIA trainee
who is unexpectedly promoted
to field operator — against strong
competition. The network feels
it established a beachhead on
Tuesdays earlier this year with
the successful launch of drama
series White Collar, she said.

That series, which pairs a con
artist with an FBI agent to solve
crimes, averaged 5.1 million viewers
during its Tuesday run from
January to March. USA hopes
White Collar will provide a strong
lead-in to Covert Affairs at 9 p.m.

“Our audiences know where to
find White Collar, and we’re hoping
they’ll find Covert Affairs as
well,” she added.

For years, Thursday night was a
magnet for viewers. NBC’s “Must
See TV” was a dominant lineup in
the 1980s and 1990s, offering up
such iconic shows as The Cosby
and Seinfeld.

Cable’s biggest networks are currently
obsessed with Tuesday night
for a simple reason: Americans love
their weekends, especially in the
summer. For many, those weekends
bleed into Monday, so viewing
routines don’t become focused
until Tuesday. That’s one theory
traded between networks.

In the same way that businesses
are best situated right
across the street from a competitor, several networks already
dominant on Tuesday are
getting company from others
who see it as a strategically good
night for launching new shows
or top returning series, despite
the competition, according to
network officials.

TNT believes Memphis Beat,
which stars Jason Lee as a quirky
city police detective, will thrive
when it launches June 22. That’s
because the network has indoctrinated
its viewers to tune into
its shows on Tuesdays, said Michael
Wright, executive vice president
and head of programming,
for TBS, TNT and Turner Classic
Movies (TCM).

Last summer, the Tuesdaynight
combination of TNT freshman
medical series HawthoRNe
and Holly Hunter vehicle Saving
averaged an impressive 1.6
million and 1.4 million viewers,
respectively, within the network’s
core 25-54 audience demo. HawthoRNe,
starring Jada Pinkett-
Smith as chief nursing officer of
an urban hospital, will serve as
Memphis Beat’s lead in at 9 p.m.
beginning June 22.

“It’s certainly one of the toughest
nights of the week, but for us,
we’re already established there,”
Wright said. “There isn’t a reason
to walk away from [Tuesdays] —
I think USA and TNT both compete
for similar viewers, which
keeps us competitive and working
for more viewers.”

One of the reasons for network
enthusiasm is the fact that Tuesday
is among summer’s most-watched
nights of the week. During summer
2009, 58% of all households
with televisions tuned into cable
programming, second only to
Monday nights which drew a 59%
HUT level, according to a Disney-
ABC Television Group analysis of
Nielsen data.

So far, through the first week
of summer 2010, Tuesdays are
drawing a 59% HUT level, the
highest mark of the week. That
bodes well for networks such as
Syfy, which is debuting the sophomore
season of its top-rated series
Warehouse 13 on July 6.

Syfy executive vice president
of original content Mark Stern
said he’s concerned about the
competition, but expects Warehouse
to remain among the
top-rated series on cable, despite
the crowded environment.
The series, about two Secret Service
detectives tasked to protect
supernatural artifacts at a topsecret
storage facility, averaged
3.8 million viewers on Tuesday
nights last year.

Warehouse 13 is a very broadbased
that plays in that blue sky
place that a lot of these other
shows play in, so it’s a natural
concern,” said Stern. “But
you just have to put your head
down and just do the best possible
show you can do. I certainly
think we have a property that
can certainly give people a run
for their money.”

Other networks have decided to
take advantage of Tuesday’s strong
HUT numbers but are staying
away from the ultra-competitive
9 p.m. to 11 p.m. time period. ABC
Family debuted Pretty Little Liars,
a drama aimed at young adults, at
8 p.m. on June 8 and drew 2.47 million
viewers — the fourth-highest
series debut its history, according
to the network.

Liars, which follows four
friends who are reunited a year
after their best friend goes missing
under mysterious circumstances,
outdrew the season
finale of Fox powerhouse Glee
head-to-head among 12-to-17-
year-old females.

FX on June 29 will debut its new
comedy series Louie, starring comedian
Louis C.K., at 11 p.m. —
similar to what the network did
with the 2005 debut of popular
comedy series It’s Always Sunny
In Philadelphia
— to take advantage
of the lead-in from the Denis
Leary-starrer Rescue Me, according
to the network.

A&E Network has decided to
eschew the night altogether, recently
moving its new scripted
series The Glades from a Tuesday night
premiere to Sundays, beginning
July 11.

“There’s no question that our
decision was driven in part by trying
to find some daylight against
the other fine and competitive
scripted shows that other cable
networks are offering,” said Bob
DeBitetto, president and general
manager of A&E and Bio. “I think
we chose a day and a time that
we felt provided the least headto-
head competition, and that’s
why we made that decision [to