BET Analysis - February 2010

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FEBRUARY 2010 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:

* Bold denotes programming change

SCHEDULING STRATEGIES:

The BET Monday - Friday schedule has firmed up, typically airing a movie each night at 8, with original programming or encores running at 10. Premiere nights for new series are usually Tuesdays and Wednesdays with plenty of encores scattered irregularly throughout the rest of the week. Sunday night hosts a mix of programming, including movies, original series, encores, news specials and encores of specials.

FEBRUARY 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

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

HH

M18-49

W18-49

Monday 8-11pm

-13%

-10%

-11%

Tuesday 8-11pm

10%

50%

14%

Wednesday 8-11pm

-18%

-11%

-5%

Thursday 8-11pm

-7%

36%

-3%

Friday 8-11pm

-18%

-7%

20%

Saturday 8-11pm

62%

44%

138%

Sunday 8-11pm

24%

12%

37%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

2%

17%

19%

*Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

In a month where most general entertainment cable networks saw sharp declines, BET managed to stave off the Olympics competition and increase audiences this February. Bottom line adult 18-49 ratings grew 16% vs. last year and held even with last month.

The line-up changed considerably this month. Only two programs were running both this month and last (Movie and THE GAME), or this month and last year (same two). There were new programs (THE MICHAEL VICK PROJECT and FAMILY CREWS), new specials (BET HONORS 2010, FOOD FOR THOUGHT: 50 CENT), and lots of encores (KEYSHIA, TINY & TOYA, SUNDAY BEST, SOS SAVING OURSELVES special).

THE BET HONORS was the top rated telecast of the month, and its first encore was the second best. The special gained clout last year when it was tied into President Obama's inauguration.

New reality show THE FAMILY CREWS debuted on Sunday the 21st, and increased household audience by 17% in its second week. Overall, CREWS averaged as the top rated regularly scheduled program of the month. The dubious prize for the most scheduled program of the month goes to THE MICHAEL VICK PROJECT. With four new episodes, the program ran 22 times in February. BET has managed to clean up its schedule this past year, but this reminds us of the old BET's tactics. The first two weeks of the premiere episodes were strong, but the show lost audience in the last two weeks, to the point where the movie lead-in was topping the premiere telecasts. We can assume the best here and blame the Winter Olympics. March numbers will tell us for sure.

Among core women 18-49 THE GAME showed some growth vs. last month (+3%) and lot's of growth vs. last year (+73%). While it was the only returning program, it was not regularly scheduled throughout the month, appearing on some Mondays, most Wednesdays, and one Friday, and then disappearing from the schedule after the 17th. Again, this is not the consistent, easy to find, easy to predict scheduling that brought BET its 2009 successes.

PAY IT OFF debuted in the fall to low ratings, and quickly left the air. It was back this February, running through each of its 12 episodes just once, on low rated Friday nights. It was the lowest rated program on the line-up this month. It seems almost too easy to say that the PAY IT OFF philosophy was "burn it off."

Despite their low profile, movies were the dominant force on the line-up, accounting for about half of the primetime inventory. Their overall adult 18-49 performance was slightly down vs. last month (-4%) and up significantly vs. last year (+29%). Top performers were The Great Debaters and Bringing Down The House.

CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:

As we said here before, BET is winning the game by going back to the basics. Scheduling is more consistent and predictable for viewers. Proven movies are the foundation for the primetime schedule each night. Programs that spike the ratings are scheduled multiple times throughout the week. New shows that stick to winning formats are constantly under development. And the network remains nimble enough to capture current events in its programming. With those programming basics employed to help boost the 2009 numbers, what can we expect for 2010?

The new brand strategy announced last year is based around themes such as family, creativity and social activism. "We've been really concerned with trying to show different facets of black life," BET CEO Debra Lee said. But the crux of the plans are heavy on celebrity / music / reality competition programming. Those programs tend to have a short shelf life; development needs to stay active to support that strategy.

BET continues to use its political and social voice in the form of on-air programming.  The network has made a public commitment to Michelle Obama's childhood obesity effort Let's Move, and will incorporate the messaging into talk shows, news programming and specials.

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