A&E Analysis - December 2009

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DECEMBER 2009 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:

* Bold denotes programming change

SCHEDULING STRATEGIES:

The network's scheduling approach appears to break the week into two parts:  Monday-Thursday, and the weekend.  In both instances, it's all about stacking themes or singular series throughout the night.

Monday-Thursday is dominated by reality based series, mostly within the crime and justice category.  Signature series INTERVENTION, DOG THE BOUNTY HUNTER, and FIRST 48 anchor the evenings, more often than not, in the form of two hour blocks.  The 10pm timeslots feature a rotating mix of real life and reality series that include the human condition, crime, pop culture, celeb-reality, and paranormal.  Many of the series tend to be half hours scheduled back to back to fill the slot.

Friday and Saturday feature three hour stacks of CRIMINAL MINDS.  Sunday nights have been switching every few months between CSI: MIAMI/CRIMINALMINDS and reality series, with dramas the current mainstay.

DECEMBER 2009 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / December 2009 vs. December 2008  (% Change)

HH

A18-49

A25-54

Monday 8-11pm

51%

40%

40%

Tuesday 8-11pm

-28%

-31%

-32%

Wednesday 8-11pm

43%

62%

49%

Thursday 8-11pm

-8%

-15%

-12%

Friday 8-11pm

40%

36%

51%

Saturday 8-11pm

81%

74%

74%

Sunday 8-11pm

39%

48%

57%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

28%

26%

27%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

The network ends the year with a bang.  Every demo break is up significantly over year ago levels.  Target adults are up more than 25% over last year.  In recent months, the weekend has carried the numbers, but increases are cropping up all across the week in December, Mondays and Wednesdays in particular.

HOARDERS takes over the top spot on the network this month.  It made Monday the highest rated night for the week in target adults. Leading into HOARDERS, INTERVENTION also featured a full slate of premieres.  Results were solid.  Nine seasons and still going strong.

The long awaited JACKSONS: THE FAMILY DYNASTY debuted in the middle of the month.  With interest heightened by the recent death of Michael Jackson, it was no surprise to see great numbers for the two hour premiere. With the audience's curiosity satiated and Christmas just a few days away, the second week's performance experienced a considerable drop. The final three episodes will premiere in January.  We'd expect similar numbers. 

STEVEN SEAGAL: LAWMAN was the other big premiere in December.  The veteran actor and martial arts expert is followed on his side job as a uniformed police officer in Louisiana.  Viewers flocked to the series premiere, as the first two episodes ended up as the number 1 and 2 rated telecasts for the month.  Numbers fell off in subsequent weeks but stayed well above the network averages.  One notable item: the series skews male.  On a network that leans female, it will need to have some help over the long haul.

DOG THE BOUNTY HUNTER featured three weeks of premieres.  It ends up the month above average.  More important, it grew more than 50% from last December slate of repeats.  Another veteran series showing strength later in life.

On the flip side, long running crime solving series THE FIRST 48 slipped in December.  All repeats didn't help.  Target demos were down 10-20% from last year.

CRIMINAL MINDS continues to roll, albeit not quite the juggernaut it was when it hit prime time a few months ago.  The off net series landed the #2 spot for total viewers, just behind HOARDERS.  It occupied 14 of the 20 top rated telecast slots for the month.  However, the older skew means that it finished just a little below average for the 18-49 group and just above average for the A25-54 break. Like CSI: MIAMI before it, expect the series to remain a solid anchor for total audiences, occupy tons of space on the weekends, and allow the net to focus its younger reality stuff during the front part of the week.

CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:

A&E made a lot of drastic program content changes in recent years, going more mainstream in reality and moving away from such staple doc series as BIOGRAPHY, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTS, and AMERICAN JUSTICE.   Properties like STEVEN SEAGAL: LAWMEN, THE FIRST 48 and MANHUNTERS still maintain the network's roots in crime/investigation, while reality shows like DOG THE BOUNTY HUNTER, INTERVENTION, HOARDERS, and GENE SIMMONS FAMILY JEWELS define the network today.  DOG THE BOUNTY HUNTER and GROWING UP GOTTI helped bring A&E into the world of general entertainment, by taking its tradition of crime into reality programming. After growing in popularity with younger demos, A&E was able to branch out even more with shows like INKED, KING OF CARS, and DRIVING FORCE.  All of these programs had compelling, quirky and/or unique characters, along with something edgy in their lifestyle.  The genre has grown to include the human condition and the paranormal. 

In early 2007, the network announced its first development slate of drama series in years.  The first project to come out of that slate, THE CLEANER starring Benjamin Bratt, premiered in July, 2008.  A second season soon followed.  THE BEAST, starring the late Patrick Swayze, solidified the network's foothold in the genre, building on their acquired dramas, particularly CRIMINAL MINDS, and the successful real life franchises.

A&E tries to be just edgy enough to fuel publicity and appeal to its new, younger audience. New program decisions are based on current successful blocks and formats; so whatever is working now, count on A&E wanting more of the same but new.

IMPORTANT: The network doesn't refer to itself as a "women's" channel, but the gender skew leans almost 60% female.  Something to keep in mind when developing a program pitch.

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