TNT Analysis - August 2010

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AUGUST 2010 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:

* Bold denotes programming change

SCHEDULING STRATEGIES:

Monday through Wednesday is TNT's primary focus, where the network has attempted to run original series throughout the year. With the June addition of back-to-back runs of LEVERAGE, Sunday night now features original programming as well. BONES has become a big part of the schedule, trying to hold up those Monday through Wednesday originals. This May LAW & ORDER was back, giving BONES some lead-in relief. NBA usually runs on Thursdays, when it's the season, otherwise it's an off-net crime drama and/or a movie. Theatricals dominate Friday through Sunday.

AUGUST 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

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

HH

A18-49

A25-54

Monday 8-11pm

27%

11%

12%

Tuesday 8-11pm

2%

4%

2%

Wednesday 8-11pm

-24%

-33%

-39%

Thursday 8-11pm

-5%

-17%

-15%

Friday 8-11pm

1%

9%

2%

Saturday 8-11pm

-16%

-16%

-15%

Sunday 8-11pm

-5%

-22%

-20%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

0%

-11%

-10%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

AUGUST 2010: TNT aired six different original dramas across four nights this month, a goal the network has been aiming at for quite some time. However, as TNT evolves and expands its schedule, bottom-line ratings are not moving in the desired direction. Monday - Sunday household ratings were level with last year but the 18-49 and 25-54 demos lost about 10%. Let's look at the night by night to see what's going on.

The week starts with Monday night's one-two punch of THE CLOSER and RIZZOLI & ISLES, leading the night to a marked improvement among core women 25-54 vs. both last year and last month. Those ratings were up 20% vs. YAG and 28% vs. MAG, with "perfect companion" (per Michael Wright) RIZZOLI & ISLES creating much of the audience growth. Compared to last year, THE CLOSER is about even on households but down 13% on women 25-54.

On Tuesdays, HAWTHORNE and MEMPHIS BEAT are making a good pairing as both grew audience from July, and helped improve the night vs. last year's HAWTHORNE / SAVING GRACE combo. Both programs have received renewals.

DARK BLUE made its summer 2010 debut on August 4th. The program dropped 21% of household audience and about 30% of demo audience ratings vs. its first season run last August, but it does show promise as audience built through the month. DARK BLUE is clearly missing the LEVERAGE pairing it received last year. And LEVERAGE is also missing a companion. It is holding it's own in the ratings pool, but is keeping its head above water more than racing to the finish line. Adult 25-54 ratings were basically flat vs. last month and down 14% vs. last year. Appearing on Sunday nights at 9PM between movies, it's easy for viewers to forget to tune in. LEVERAGE was able to build audience from its lead-in every time it aired, even with big titles like The Librarian (also from Dean Devlin) and Gladiator. But movies don't bring consistent audiences to the network each week...theatricals can skew young or old, male or female, depending on the title.

It looks like a theme is emerging here. Companion programming is all-important to TNT's original dramas, and if paired and promoted well, aging programs can be revived (THE CLOSER) and new programs can become successes (MEMPHIS BEAT).

Another theme we see emerging is the increasing age of TNT's audience. Audience age continues to creep upwards, as evidenced by the flat household ratings coupled with the falling demo ratings. TNT's median age is always high in the summer months, but this August it is the highest we have ever seen it. There is not a single source to blame for the aging audience. THE CLOSER has always pulled in a big 55+ crowd, and continues to do so, with high-rated RIZZOLI & ISLES following its lead. (To be clear, R&I does not skew as old as THE CLOSER, but it is one of the older skewing programs on the net.) As the two highest rated programs, these original dramas set the stage. Other programs pulling up the median age are off net procedurals LAW & ORDER (which did not air last August) and BONES. A couple of primetime PGA CHAMPIONSHIP telecasts added to the audience age as well.

The next few months will be quiet on TNT as the summer originals come to a close. Off net procedurals and movies will be left to carry the network through the fall until NBA and drama-season are back.

CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:

Summer has become all-important to TNT and its signature series strategy, and this summer can be called a success. With the exception of DARK BLUE, each of the returning summer series improved vs. last year and has received a renewal. New programs RIZZOLI & ISLES and MEMPHIS BEAT had strong debuts, and have also received renewals.

TNT's strategy is to keep the subject-matter light, to use established shows to launch new fare and to keep the programming consistent in look, feel and content. As discussed above, companion programming is key to audience flow and cross-promotion, and there seems to be some room for improvement for DARK BLUE and LEVERAGE. However it's the off-network procedurals that are really pulling down the numbers.

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