Spike TV Analysis - March 2010

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MARCH 2010 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:

* Bold denotes programming change

SCHEDULING STRATEGIES:

THE ULTIMATE FIGHTER and other UFC-related series and specials pop up a lot in different days/time slots, occupying at least 1/3 of the Prime grid, and figuring prominently among the top-rated vehicles each month. Sports entertainment series TNA IMPACT which generally holds one of the top spots in HH and key demo delivery each month is moving to Monday nights to take on USA's WWE Wrestling head-to-head, and will be offering live action every other week. Other factual series usually deal with physical competition or risk.

Spike is, however, retooling its original-series strategy.  Spike has been focusing its development slate on comedy as well as drama, in addition to their library of action movies and stunts.   Spike has also recently made a serious commitment to off-network movie product as they have beefed up their acquisition purchases with movie franchises Rambo and the Star Wars saga.

MARCH 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

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

HH

M18-49

Monday 8-11pm

-6%

28%

Tuesday 8-11pm

-37%

-31%

Wednesday 8-11pm

-28%

-20%

Thursday 8-11pm

-21%

-30%

Friday 8-11pm

-10%

-35%

Saturday 8-11pm

-7%

-2%

Sunday 8-11pm

-5%

-21%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

-17%

-18%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

Where declines in HH delivery in recent months were mitigated by growth for their key RM18-49 demo, for the second month in a row Spike dropped nearly 1/5 in that demo, compared to the same month in 2009.  Younger Men declined in March on 5 of 7 nights, although the the drop in HH Ratings, while significant as well, is less than it was in February 2010.

Spike is still shedding older viewers, albeit at a slower rate, as the Median Age fell 5% from last March.

Losses in female demos every night in March also contributed to the continuing decline in HH. With only three consistently scheduled weeknight series Spike depended on specials, scheduling stunts and Movies to populate the February lineup.

Top-rated TNA IMPACT made its long-anticipated move to Monday from Thursday, and right into the teeth of USA's similar-appeal juggernaut WWE Entertainment. Comparing both properties to their demo delivery of March 2009, WWE is down 9%, while TNA IMPACT has dropped 29% for RM18-49. Since the USA series generally triples the delivery of TNA IMPACT, the effect of the move is negligible for WWE, initially, but might prove costly for Spike.

Tuesday saw a variety of UFC-related programs run from 8-10p, leading into original Spike sit-com BLUE MOUNTAIN STATE at 10p, which continues to under-deliver the Network average for HH and demos. Similar-appeal sit-com PLAYERS premiered at 1030p, but dropped nearly half of its BLUE MT. STATE lead-in fpor the month.

On Wednesdays the Network's former #1 entertainment series 1000 WAYS TO DIE was replaced with a variety of UFC- related fare, as was former 1030p offering, MANSWERS. Overall the night dropped by nearly 1/3 in HH and demos from last month, with slightly less severe results when compared to last year.

Movies replaced the usual UFC-oriented fare to combine with TNA Wrestling  to drive Thursday nights. Thursdays are still Spike's highest rated night, although two of three TNA IMPACT telecasts were repeats of its Monday telecast.

Fridays in March featured a consistent block of CSI, replacing the UFC and THE BEST OF PRIDE FIGHTING CHAMPIONSHIPS from February. This resulted in the month's steepest demo losses vs. laste year and last month, as CSI 's audience appeal is much more demographically balanced than its stablemates.

Saturday benefited from a couple of the more recent STAR WARS Movies as well as a live UFC event. Overall, the night was down slightly in HH and demo delivery compared to March 2009, and grew by 1/5 in the demo over February

Another run of STAR WARS EP. III and a couple of blocks of 1000 WAYS TO DIE, helped Sunday achieve parity with last year's HH Rtg, although demos declined. Compared to last month, Sunday was up in the 25% range across the board.

CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:

Spike is making a bigger play for its target 18-49 male audience with an increased output of original scripted comedies, focusing on shows with sports themes. January 2010's premiere of BLUE MOUNTAIN STATE  is a good example.

Spike sees itself as an entertainment-driven factual Network aimed solidly at younger men. Much of their Prime line-up is dedicated to physical competition, whether from its Sports division (UFC) or Original Entertainment (DEADLIEST WARRIOR.)

Movies also occupy a significant amount of the schedule, but the concentration is on Theatricals, rather than original M.O.W.'s. In its quest to differentiate itself from its competition, Spike looks to take on traditional genres, but with a twist. Specials about historical warriors have appeared on History, Discovery and National Geographic (all of which Spike counts among their competitors,) but in Spike's DEADLIEST WARRIORS, two different eras and cultures are pitted against each other in a tournament format that puts each unique style to the test. Producers should keep this imperative in mind when developing projects aimed at this Network.

Comedic elements, where germane to the project, are also favored by the Network. One sub-genre that Spike is currently staying away from is Disaster-related fare.

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