TNT Analysis - January 2010

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JANUARY 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, holding up Monday through Wednesday. 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.

JANUARY 2009 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

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

HH

A18-49

A25-54

Monday 8-11pm

-6%

-13%

-10%

Tuesday 8-11pm

-10%

-23%

-24%

Wednesday 8-11pm

40%

20%

29%

Thursday 8-11pm

-13%

-5%

-11%

Friday 8-11pm

4%

-8%

-9%

Saturday 8-11pm

-17%

-15%

-21%

Sunday 8-11pm

1%

0%

3%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

-1%

-7%

-7%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

The good news for TNT this January - the net scored its best numbers since the summer peak. Compared to last month, TNT gained 13% among adults 18-49 and 5% among the 25-54 audience. The bad news - audience levels were about 7% below last year's levels. As you can see in the chart above, only Wednesday night saw significant year over year gains.

January is the unofficial mid-season, or the point five season. Many of the cable networks hold back four to six new episodes to run in January/February, for their .5 midseason run. This strategy keeps signature series top of mind among viewers, provides a new program launching pad outside the summer months, and gives the networks a nice ratings bump to start out the year.

This January on TNT saw MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE try to stand on its own without the help of THE CLOSER. It marked the TNT premiere of NBC's recently cancelled SOUTHLAND (named one of AOL's top TV moments of 2009). LEVERAGE returned for its ".5,"  BONES has taken its place as the go-to program for TNT's network schedulers (but what about viewers?), and NBA attempted a comeback.

So, starting at the top of that impressive list, on Mondays MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE was in its sophomore month this January, having started strong in December with THE CLOSER as a lead-in. This month BONES is the lead-in, and it is not helping. This month's average ratings for MEN fell by over 30% across the board vs. last month's average. In a tough blow, NBA pre-empted MEN in the fourth week of January and when it returned in the fifth week it culled the lowest ratings to date. Still, it's not all doom and gloom. The program has received a lot of critical acclaim and a renewal. But the best news is the demo performance; it was the highest rated program among core women 25-54.

SOUTHLAND moved to TNT on Tuesday nights at 10PM, knocking out the last of one-time TNT staple LAW & ORDER. Tuesday nights were one of the bottom performers, virtually tied for last place with Thursdays and Saturdays on households, but standing alone at the bottom across the demo board. SOUTHLAND had a decent premiere on the 12th, but dropped about 20% of its audience in the subsequent two weeks, with a disappointing 30% drop among men 18-49.  Female skewing BONES was not necessarily the best lead-in for male skewing SOUTHLAND. While SOUTHLAND was able to build or hold BONES' male audience, it lost female viewers.

The best night all around this January was Wednesdays, with season 2.5 of LEVERAGE leading the way to top ratings among households and women 25-54. In its first week back, TNT ran eps from earlier in the season, leading into the new 10PM time period. Ratings for the new episode were significantly better than when it ended its September run. While household ratings were up by just 10%, 18-49s were up by nearly 50% and 25-54s were up by about 25%.

BONES is the lead-in for all three nights of originals, filling the Monday through Wednesday 8-10PM block. While the program performs well on households, it does not have the demo strength of the programs it is supporting. Compared to last year's performance, BONES has lost over one-third of its demo ratings.

NBA on TNT saw a big surge in viewing last year, particularly among women. Ratings have not held this season - December "09 ratings were off by about 30% vs. December '08 ratings. While January's numbers are up by more than 40% vs. December, they are still off vs. last year. Most significantly, they are down by 26% among core men 18-49.

The last component of TNT primetime is theatricals. Movies worked well this month on TNT, showing nice growth vs. both last month and last year and better demo comps than most TNT programming. Sunday night saw the most growth, spurred by Shooter and Lord of the Rings.

This was another important month for TNT - and another month with lackluster growth.

CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:

TNT is a cross between a broadcast network, a pay movie service and a premiere NBA channel.

But the  net wants to do it on its own, or else get the help of some big names - Redford, Bocchco, Bruckheimer - you get the idea. 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. 

 In January, TNT officially ordered three more original dramas, bringing the original series count to ten in total. (DELTA BLUES (wt), 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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