TNT Analysis - February 2010

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FEBRUARY 2010 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:

* Bold denotes programming change

SCHEDULING STRATEGIES:

Monday through Wednesday is TNT's primary focus, where the network has vowed to run original series throughout the year. BONES has become a big part of the schedule, trying to hold up those Monday through Wednesday originals. NBA usually runs on Thursdays, when it's the season, otherwise it's an off-net crime drama and a movie. Blockbuster theatricals dominate Friday through Sunday.

FEBRUARY 2009 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

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

HH

A18-49

A25-54

Monday 8-11pm

-41%

-24%

-36%

Tuesday 8-11pm

-20%

-31%

-33%

Wednesday 8-11pm

17%

13%

7%

Thursday 8-11pm

18%

10%

9%

Friday 8-11pm

16%

5%

1%

Saturday 8-11pm

-20%

-19%

-22%

Sunday 8-11pm

-9%

-14%

-11%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

-10%

-10%

-14%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

TNT was running three original dramas this February, but there were a lot of distractions. The broadcast nets had The Winter Olympics, The Super Bowl and sweeps programming to draw many viewers away. TNT was broadcasting the NBA ALL STAR WEEKEND coverage in addition to the regular NBA season games, making bottom-line audience averages deceptively young and male. The top four telecasts on TNT this month don't even show up on the Nielsen charts...they were NBA ALL STAR programming, Which is a long way of saying that a quick glance at the bottom-line does not even begin to tell the story of how TNT's programming is performing.

MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE concluded its first season this February. The program definitely appeals to women of a certain age, although male 25-54 viewing is strong as well. The program is a strong second on the line-up among women 25-54, behind LEVERAGE. Movies and BONES usually outperform MEN on male demos. While the show's finale underdelivered the season average, it did produce the highest ratings of February and the finale of MEN virtually tied the finale of LEVERAGE on 25-54s. Hidden factors to consider: critical acclaim is strong, the finale was right up against the Olympics and DVR usage for the program is considerable - an above average +37%. From TV By The Numbers, here are the specifics:

Men of a Certain Age: Season Finale (Live + 7 vs. Live + SD):
Viewers: +36% to 3.6 million
Adults 18-49: +37% to 1.7 million
Adults 25-54:  +33% to 2.1 million
Men of a Certain Age: First Season Overall (Live + 7 vs. Live + SD):
Viewers: +31% to 4.2 million
Adults 18-49: +40% to 1.8 million
Adults 25-54:  +37% to 2.3 million

Tuesdays were the lowest rated night of the week, across the board. TNT was running two episodes of BONES leading into episodes from the first season of SOUTHLAND, that were new to TNT, but had already aired on NBC. SOUTHLAND consistently loses audience from the BONES lead-in, and both programs lost 15% of their adult 25-54 audience vs. last month. The good news for SOUTHLAND is that numbers held steady throughout February, with no more audience drop-off, even in the face of stiff broadcast competition.

Wednesdays brought top-rated LEVERAGE to the air, with the grand finale on the 17th. On average, LEVERAGE pulled in the best numbers for women 25-54 and adults 25-54 on the net, but it was down 18% vs. last month and 13% vs. last year.

The foundation for all these originals was BONES. The exception was the finale night for MEN and LEVERAGE, when earlier episodes were rebroadcast to lead into the season enders. As a rule, BONES outperformed the rebroadcasts. BONES brings in strong household ratings, but demo comps are generally weaker than the original dramas it is supporting.

The last non-sporting component of the TNT line-up is the theatricals.  Adult 25-54 ratings for movies were down about 12% vs. both last month and last year. Top titles were The Longest Yard (again!), A Time to Kill, Twister and The DaVinci Code.

So while TNT's bottom-line numbers were up from last month, it was due to specials, not regular programming. Regular programming seemed to be in trouble, until you consider the blow that the Winter Olympics dealt. In the meantime, TNT keeps rolling out new series, hoping for that mega-hit.

CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:

With the acclaim garnered from signature series (LEVERAGE, THE CLOSER), they have cachet among Hollywood's top talent, making TNT tough territory for anything but studio projects. TNT wants to do it on its own, or else get the help of some big names - Redford, Bocchco, Bruckheimer - you get the idea.

 In January, TNT officially ordered three more original dramas, bringing the original series count to ten in total. (MEMPHIS BLUES, an alien invasion project and RIZZOLI & ISLES are the new projects.) "With these new projects, TNT continues to focus on great storytellers," said Michael Wright, executive vice president, head of programming "The central characters come from different worlds of crime, law and medicine but they share essential, everyman qualities. They're all everyday heroes on a personal journey the viewer can relate to and care deeply about."

If a trend is emerging, it is TNT's seeming readiness to try new formulas. MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE goes outside the typical TNT drama mold, and the acquisition of SOUTHLAND shows a willingness to try series that don't have a definitive TNT stamp on them.

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