A&E Analysis - October 2010

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OCTOBER 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.

OCTOBER 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

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

HH

A18-49

A25-54

Monday 8-11pm

1%

-4%

0%

Tuesday 8-11pm

11%

26%

17%

Wednesday 8-11pm

22%

18%

26%

Thursday 8-11pm

39%

59%

64%

Friday 8-11pm

-35%

-36%

-36%

Saturday 8-11pm

-45%

-25%

-30%

Sunday 8-11pm

-50%

-39%

-39%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

-16%

-4%

-4%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

Twas an interesting month.   At first glance, target adults 18-49 and 25-54 are down 4%.  Not horrible, but combined with losses last month, not the right direction either.  Beneath that drop men were up 10% and women were down 12%.  Median age was also down 8%, a pretty big shift in just one month.  The split personality of the network is at the root of all of it.

Monday through Thursday is entirely unscripted television.  All four nights draw above the network average.  They are the four youngest nights of the week.  This month, all but Tuesday, rose heavily with men.  Together, these four nights keep the network median age down and the target adult ratings up.

Friday to Sunday is largely drama.  In October, unscripted moved into Saturday for two of the five weeks, and took a larger role on Sunday nights.  But the dynamic remains.  These three nights drew a smaller and older audience to the network.   Together, they pulled up the median age of the channel, and the average ratings down.   Pushing unscripted on Sundays and repeats on Saturdays is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done to bring the weekend up to the level of the weekday number

Turning to individual series, top spot in October goes to THE FIRST 48.  The Thursday night staple brought a full slate of premieres to the table, lifting its audience more than 30% over last year.

Also up over last year were DOG THE BOUNTY HUNTER and PARKING WARS.  Both series featured premieres throughout the month and came in well above the network averages.

New episodes of HOARDERS were also up on Monday nights, with the 9pm repeats under average for the month.  Same pattern with BILLY THE EXTERMINATOR on Tuesday nights.  Premiere episodes really sing, and the repeats fall off a bit.  In BILLY's case though, even the repeats are solid.

A new season of STEVEN SEAGAL: LAWMEN on Wednesday night was solid.  It started off with a great first week, dropped a notch in the second, and leveled off from there.

The network's newest offering, TEACH: TONY DANZA, struggled right out of the gate.  Too bad, because this is most genuine and well produced series we've seen in the celeb/reality/unscripted genre.  Danza opens himself up to the camera and the students, taking the audience on a journey through real life high school.  Refreshing after seeing so much scripted "unscripted" on television.  It was the lowest rated the series on the schedule in all demos.  The Friday 10pm slot made it tough from the start.  Would have been interesting to see this one on Monday or even Sunday.  Nevertheless, it still fell considerably from the lead-in and that can't be overlooked.  We're not expecting Tony to be back for a sophomore year.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday are down 30-40% from last year when it was all CRIMINAL MINDS all the time.  Saturday's mix of unscripted repeats and drama drew the lowest numbers.  Sunday picks things up a notch, driven by new seasons of PARANORMAL STATE and PSYCHIC KIDS.  Once again, it's the unscripted stuff saving the day.

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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