A&E Analysis - November 2010

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NOVEMBER 2010 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.

NOVEMBER 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

Live Primetime Ratings Comparison /November 2010 vs. November 2009 (% Change)

HH

A18-49

A25-54

Monday 8-11pm

7%

0%

4%

Tuesday 8-11pm

-12%

2%

-4%

Wednesday 8-11pm

6%

5%

9%

Thursday 8-11pm

18%

20%

27%

Friday 8-11pm

-31%

-25%

-27%

Saturday 8-11pm

-52%

-32%

-39%

Sunday 8-11pm

-54%

-27%

-32%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

-23%

-10%

-13%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

The network is down for the 3rd consecutive month and this time it wasn't insignificant.  Total viewers were at their lowest levels since we started tracking four years ago.  A result of reducing the volume of scripted content, the HH drop doesn't have to be a major issue unless....the target demos drop as well.  And they did.  Target adults were down 10-15% for the month, with most of that coming from women.  If there's a positive to be found underneath it all, the median age also fell significantly, hitting its youngest age in four years and maybe longer. 

Monday was flat to up slightly.  HOARDERS led the way with three weeks of premiere outings, all drawing large audiences.  Good thing.  INTERVENTION has fallen off the radar, down almost 30% from last year.  Moving it back into the 9pm slot would help.

Tuesdays on par with last year.  Two hour blocks of BILLY THE EXTERMINATOR anchored the night, holding up the weaker PARKING WARS.  PARKING was down 17% from last year and that includes a full slate of premieres this November. 

Wednesdays were up slightly, the result of small improvements for STEVEN SEAGAL: LAWMAN and special presentation of FINDING HULK HOGAN.  DOG THE BOUNTY HUNTER was level to last year, but under the network averages for the month.

Three weeks of new episodes of FIRST 48, plus a Thanksgiving full of repeats, brought big increases over last year.  The night was up more than 20% in key demos.  The series was up more than 10% over last year for those same demos. 

Fridays were up heavily over last year with the same content.  CRIMINAL MINDS just did much better this time around.  Impressive.  It's still the oldest night on the schedule by a wide margin, but as long as it's just the one night, they're fine. 

Which brings us to Saturday.  CRIMINAL MINDS was completely removed from the night, replaced by mini-stacks of unscripted series repeats.  DOG THE BOUNTY HUNTER, FIRST 48, and BILLY THE EXTERMINATOR each took on one Saturday in November.  Best of the bunch was BILLY, although the other two weren't far behind.  Audiences dropped a ton in the key demos, but so did the median age.  If they stick with the unscripted strategy, next step is get back some of those younger eyeballs to replace the older ones that left.

Sunday is almost an exact replica of Saturday.  Numbers were way down across the board versus last year.  Gone was CRIMINALS MINDS, replaced by unscripted content.  In this case, it's unexplained night with PARANORMAL STATE and PSYCHIC KIDS filling the schedule.  Premiere episodes of PARANORMAL STATE were fine, repeats were below net average.  PSYCHIC KIDS was below average with two weeks of premieres before disappearing from the schedule mid-month.

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. The newest addition, THE GLADES, hit the schedule this summer and more pilots are in the production hopper now.

A&E tries to be just edgy enough to fuel publicity and appeal to a younger audience. Strong characters, as in DOG THE BOUNTY HUNTER and BILLY THE EXTERMINATOR, mixed in select celeb-reality offerings sit across the week.  The human condition has formed the basis for their Monday nights over the last year with INTERVENTION, OBSESSED, and HOARDERS. 

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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