TNT Analysis - December 2010

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DECEMBER 2010 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 those 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 through Sunday.

DECEMBER 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

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

HH

A18-49

A25-54

Monday 8-11pm

-19%

-37%

-34%

Tuesday 8-11pm

-21%

-12%

-16%

Wednesday 8-11pm

1%

4%

-2%

Thursday 8-11pm

114%

178%

151%

Friday 8-11pm

-23%

-18%

-21%

Saturday 8-11pm

-20%

-8%

-9%

Sunday 8-11pm

12%

8%

9%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

-1%

8%

0%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

DECEMBER 2010: TNT boosted its month over month ratings again this December, continuing a run to get numbers back to previous highs. The bottom line showed better than 20% growth on core 25-54 demos vs. November, and was basically even with last year (see above).

However, a quick look at the nightly numbers quickly reveals that it was Thursday's NBA that pulled numbers up. After a lull in ratings last year, NBA is back and bigger than ever, led this month by a huge Heat/Cavaliers match-up. Unfortunately, the rest of the line-up headed in the opposite direction.

A lot was hinging on Monday nights, with a RIZZOLI & ISLES special, new episodes of THE CLOSER (the first new eps since September), and the second season of MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE. While Monday night's women 25-54 ratings climbed by 61% vs. November, they were down by 30% vs. last year, when the line-up was similar. THE CLOSER fell by 32% among women 25-54 and MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE fell by 57% vs. December 2009. Last year MEN grew younger demo audience vs. THE CLOSER, but it lost significant audience from its CLOSER lead-in this year. The good news for MEN is that it received strong praise from the press, and that its audience, although smaller, remained steady throughout December. The network stands behind the program, and blamed an increasingly competitive Monday night, specifically college bowl games, for the ratings decline. We're not sure how many women left THE CLOSER to find Monday night football in place of MEN, but we'll take TNT's statement at face value. The season was cut in half, so that just six episodes ran this December/January. The rest of the season will return in the summer, where there will be absolutely no danger of football interference. 

Primetime Tuesdays this month consisted of BONES at 8 leading into a movie at 9, with no LAW & ORDER to be found. BONES typically drew higher household ratings than the movie, but movies won on demo. The off-net procedurals are a double-edged sword for TNT, drawing bigger and older audiences to the net. 

BONES ran in all three hours of primetime each Wednesday of December. Despite year-over-year growth among women 25-54 on Wednesday nights (+12%), BONES as a whole lost 17% of its audience vs. last year.

LEVERAGE was back this month with four new episodes on two Sunday nights. The time period continues to be a challenge; audiences gradually found the program as evidenced by climbing ratings with each successive episode, but by the time they found the program, it went back off the air.

Theatricals were the last programming component. Holiday specials did well, as always, and movies continue to help drive younger demos to the network. Highlights included TNT faves Lord of the Rings and The Wizard of Oz, as well as The Forbidden Kingdom, This Christmas and A Christmas Carol.

CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:

NBA continues to drive TNT this season.  Despite the network's best efforts, program ratings are down from last year. The shortened cycles seemingly designed to take advantage of the broadcast networks' off-season might not be giving audiences enough time to get used to tuning to TNT.  Whether these mini-seasons are due to limited inventory or a too-cute programming strategy, they appear to be giving both programs and audiences a disservice.

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