TNT Analysis - August 2011

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AUGUST 2011 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:

* Bold denotes programming change

SCHEDULING STRATEGIES:

Sunday through Wednesday is TNT's primary focus, where the network has attempted to run original series throughout the year. BONES and (usually) LAW & ORDER have become a big part of the schedule, trying to hold up the Monday through Wednesday originals.  NBA runs on Thursdays, when it's the season, otherwise it's an off-net crime drama and/or a movie. Theatricals dominate Friday and Saturday, plus Sundays when originals are not running.

AUGUST 2011 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / August 2011 vs.August 2010  (% Change)

HH

A18-49

A25-54

Monday 8-11pm

 -12%

  -18%

  -14%

Tuesday 8-11pm

 - 24%

  -38%

  -37%

Wednesday 8-11pm

  -11%

   -17%

   -22%

Thursday 8-11pm

  -4%

   13%

   11%

Friday 8-11pm

-29%

  -20%

  -29%

Saturday 8-11pm

  -3%

  -7%

  -8%

Sunday 8-11pm

   17%

     22%

   28%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

-11%

  -10%

 -12%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

AUGUST 2011: This is not proving to be the summer of TNT. Despite numerous program launches and acquisitions, core women 25-54 audiences are leaving the network. July and August are typically the best-rated months of TNT’s year, but both July and August’s primetime demo ratings were lower than the 2010 annual average. The only thing really working for TNT this year has been NBA playoffs. Other than April and May when playoffs dominated primetime, core year over year ratings have been off by double digits, ranging from an 11% drop in February to a 24% drop in June. This summer, when TNT was running on all of its scripted original cylinders, women 25-54 ratings were off by 18% in July and 20% in August. At the end of the summer, History, with its unique blend of reality programming, bumped TNT out of its traditional number 2 spot.

Sunday was the only night to show consistent improvement. FALLING SKIES was the top-rated cable drama of the summer, and it helped boost lead-out program LEVERAGE in its fourth season. Sunday night enjoyed year-over-year growth across the board, including +39% among men 25-54. While we see live numbers for LEVERAGE fading from last year, TNT claims the “LIVE +7 numbers are up 10% over season three and ranking it one of basic cable's Top 10 returning dramas. The show has also grown its delivery of adults 18-49 to 1.9 million (+6%) and adults 25-54 to 2.3 million (+10%).”

Mondays were all about older-female-skewing RIZZOLI & ISLES and THE CLOSER. Together the two programs brought in Monday nights as the best-reated on TNT. According to TNT’s rankings, they were also the summer’s number one and number two rated programs on total viewers with LIVE +7 data. But looking at live data with encores included in the averages, both programs dropped significant audience from last year, with THE CLOSER down by about one-fifth and RIZZOLI down by about one-third.

Tuesday nights took the biggest declines of the week, with both HAWTHORNE and MEMPHIS BEAT bleeding audience from last year. HAWTHORNE has been officially cancelled. MEMPHIS BEAT put forth a strong finale, and its fate has yet to be determined. In August, HAWTHORNE topped MEMPHIS BEAT on women and adults, but was behind on men. We have speculated that TNT will focus on its men in the future, and this seems to be another indication of a more male strategy.

Which brings us to FRANKLIN & BASH. The light-hearted, underperforming program holds an even male-female skew, a younger audience than most programs on TNT and a renewal for a second season.

On Thursdays, BONES and movies helped improve the night over year ago. The night still underdelivered the bottom-line, but was one of only two nights to show growth from last year.
Friday and Saturday were all theatricals, with Transformers, The Dark Knight and Shooters pulling the best numbers, but again, both nights were down from last year.

CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:

TNT is struggling to hold onto its audiences. This year’s onslaught of competitive cable programming is taking its toll – even as  cable as a whole rises, TNT falls and its share becomes smaller. This summer TNT was knocked out of its #2 position by History..

The programs that are working best and gaining momentum are the male-skewing action dramas, which tie in nicely with the acquired movie library and sports programming. Will TNT change course and begin a bigger focus on men, or will it contine to target women? Active programming in-development goes both ways – a period western for men, DALLAS, and MAJOR CRIMES for women and a crime-solving drama for both.

It is worth noting that two time issues are affecting TNT’s top programming. The network tends to order short seasons (10 eps. is average) for its originals. Series that are slow to get started or to find their audience are at high risk of finishing their short seasons before hitting their stride. In addition, TNT’s signature original dramas tend to draw time-shifted viewing. TNT estimates over 50% ratings gains when +7 viewing is included. Without the timeshifted viewing included, numbers are down. Is TNT literally running out of time?

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