USA Analysis - September 2011



* Bold denotes programming change


USA’s scheduling, like its programming, is extraordinarily consistent, making it easy for viewers to know what to expect when they tune in.

Off network dramas comprise the white noise that holds the network together with strips and three-hour primetime blocks. NCIS and LAW & ORDER: SVU typically fill that role. HOUSE has had less success at the job, and goes on and off the primetime schedule.

Other than that, WWE always runs on Monday nights. Premiere nights for original one-hour dramas lean to Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, with the remainder of the schedule left to off net acquisitions and movies. Originals returned to Sunday nights this June, giving USA five nights of original programming. And Friday nights are being looked at, according to Chris McCumber. The season for original programming has expanded as well. Once relegated to the non-competitive summer months, USA has continued to successfully expand its roster of originals, with new series and new episodes running nearly all year, with just a couple of bridge months left to fill. “We want to be a network that’s on all four seasons, and basically has a presence throughout the week,” affirmed Jeff Wachtel.


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




Monday 8-11pm




Tuesday 8-11pm




Wednesday 8-11pm




Thursday 8-11pm




Friday 8-11pm




Saturday 8-11pm




Sunday 8-11pm




MTWTFSS 8-11pm




Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

SEPTEMBER 2011: While August is one of USA’s best performing months, September is one of the toughest for the network, as it transitions out of the blue-skies of summer and into the broadcast premiere season of September. This September was USA’s lowest rated month of 2011 on men and adults, but it can still be called a successful month as the bottom line grew audience vs. last September; 9% on adults 18-49 and 2% on adults 25-54.

Monday remains the ratings leader with WWE far ahead of the USA programming pack on household and male ratings. Only USA original dramas ROYAL PAINS and NECESSARY ROUGHNESS could top WWE on women this month. Wrestling ratings have been off by about 5% to 10% as of late, and September was no exception.

Tuesdays, with a three-hour stack of LAW & ORDER: SVU took the worst hits of the week, with household ratings down 47% vs. last year. However, median age fell as well, as Adult 25-54 ratings dropped by a bigger percentage than the18-49 ratings. Despite the falling ratings Tuesday was the best-rated night for women 18-49. In addition, the night got the added bonus of holding USA’s youngest audiences and was the only night where 18-49 ratings topped 25-54 ratings, including Monday nights' wrestling.

Wednesday through Saturday is where the year over year growth came in to play. On Wednesdays ROYAL PAINS and NECESSARY ROUGHNESS finished up their third and first seasons with the strongest female ratings on the line-up. While both programs took double-digit demo declines vs. August, they topped last year’s Wednesday nights (NCIS and PSYCH) with an impressive 40% gain on women ratings.

Thursdays saw 30%+ gains on men, based on the strength of BURN NOTICE and SUITS vs. last year’s LAW & ORDER: SVU. Again, as both original dramas finished up their seasons they lost audience vs. August’s performance.

As USA’s originals finished their runs just in time for the broadcast nets to start their 2010/2011 seasons, off-net series LAW & ORDER: SVU and NCIS were put in place to hold up the network. And they both did their job well. SVU shows remarkable growth vs. last year with this year’s 24 telecasts pulling in 27% better adult 18-49 ratings and 13% better adult 25-54 ratings than last year. With 31 telecasts this year (more than one-third of the line-up) NCIS improved 18-49 ratings by 14% and held steady on 25-54s. CSI is still receiving limited runs and low ratings by USA standards.

Friday night saw both audience ratings and age increasing with 45% growth on households, 19% growth on adults 25-54, and 13% growth on median age. Friday and Saturday were the only nights that did not lose adult audience vs. last month – ratings were basically flat. Movies played a smaller role than last year, with NCIS being the key player this year, explaining the older audiences.

It is generally accepted that the cable nets maxed out on original dramas this summer, and that it is time to branch out. USA intends to lead the way once again as it pushes into comedy, reality and event programming, all while staying within the vein of the powerful USA brand.