USA Performance/Schedule Analysis - August 2009

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PERFORMANCE/SCHEDULE ANALYSIS

(Updated as of September 23, 2009)

CURRENT AND SIGNATURE PROGRAMS: BURN NOTICE (DRAMA)
A blacklisted spy returns to his hometown of Miami to solve crimes while trying to find his betrayer.
Status: Third season premiered Thursday June 4 @ 9PM. 16 x 60. Produced by Fox Television Studios / Fuse Entertainment

HOUSE (DRAMA)
Medical drama following the acerbic Doctor House and his hospital team (Off Fox).
Status: On hiatus in August, occasional runs in September, returns with season 5 episodes on Thursdays in October. Produced by Heel and Toe Films, Universal Media Studios.

IN PLAIN SIGHT
(DRAMA)
Series follows the life of a U.S. Marshal as she helps people in the witness protection program, while coping with her own erratic family.
Status: Second season 4/19 - 8/9. 12 x 60. Produced by Universal Media Studios / Pirates Cove Entertainment

LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT
(DRAMA)
The third installment of the network franchise focuses on law officers forced to make ambiguous decisions when bringing criminals to justice.
Status: Season 8 4/19.-8/9 16 x 60. Produced by Universal Media Studios / Wolf Films

MONK
(DRAMA)
Series revolves around a private detective who also has OCD and multiple phobias.
Status: Season 8 premiere Fridays at 9PM on 8/7. Produced by Universal Media Studios / Mandeville Films / ABC Studios

NCIS (DRAMA)
Criminal investigation drama revolving around a team of special agents assigned to solving crimes connected to Navy and Marine Corps personnel.  (Off CBS)
Status: A USA primetime staple. Produced by CBS Televisions Studios - Network TV / Belisarius Productions

PSYCH
(DRAMA)
A man fakes being a psychic but is recruited to the police force when people believe that his powers are real.
Status: Season 4 premieres Fridays @ 10 on 8/7. Produced by Universal Media Studios / Tagline Pictures

ROYAL PAINS (DRAMA)
A young doctor becomes a concierge doctor to the Hampton's elite.
Status Debut Thursday June 11 @ 10PM. 11x60. Produced by Universal Media Studios, NBC Universal Cable Studio, USA Network.

WWE RAW (SPORTING)
World Wrestling matches feature pro wrestlers in action.
Status: A Monday night regular on USA. Produced by World Wrestling Entertainment


AUGUST 2009 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE

TOP PRIMETIME SHOWS:

ROYAL PAINS, WWE, MONK, LAW & ORDER: CI, BURN NOTICE, IN PLAIN SIGHT, PSYCH


SCHEDULING STRATEGIES:

USA is extraordinarily consistent month-to-month and week-to-week, while still managing to keep the schedule fresh.

Off network dramas are the glue that holds the network together with strips and three-hour primetime blocks. NCIS, LAW & ORDER: SVU and HOUSE fill that role. Other than that, WWE always runs on Monday nights, and preferred nights for original series are Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays. Movies have taken a back seat lately, with a diminished presence on the primetime line-up, although movie package purchasing is somewhat active.

UPCOMING PREMIERES:

WHITE COLLAR premiere set for fourth quarter.

RATINGS ANALYSIS:
August 2009 vs. August 2008
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison:

HH

A18-49

A25-54

Monday 8-11pm

45%

23%

32%

Tuesday 8-11pm

31%

33%

33%

Wednesday 8-11pm

94%

46%

77%

Thursday 8-11pm

75%

44%

69%

Friday 8-11pm

31%

25%

32%

Saturday 8-11pm

42%

33%

37%

Sunday 8-11pm

3%

5%

9%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

43%

28%

39%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

There were a lot of comings and goings on USA's schedule this August. This is the first year the network has not covered the first week of the US Open. While that is an upscale and prestigious franchise, it always underperformed USA's regular programming line up. Last year USA was up against the Olympics, which did a lot to draw away USA's viewers.  ROYAL PAINS, BURN NOTICE, LAW & ORDER: CI and IN PLAIN SIGHT all finished up their summer season in the middle of August with strong numbers. And after dropping more audience and airtime each month, HOUSE left the schedule entirely this August, and is not set to return on a regular basis until October, with episodes from season 5. HOUSE has basically been replaced with LAW & ORDER: SVU, which is now back from its own hiatus.

That's a lot of change for a network that is known for its consistency. But it was almost all good, as numbers soared vs. last year and were up in the double-digit percentages for both households and women vs. last month. Also up is the network's median age, which hit the 50+ level for the second month in a row.

Monday nights, and male ratings are still dominated by WWE. The franchise is up moderately vs. both last month (+5% on households and men) and last year (+15% on households, +8% on men 25-54).

As discussed here before, HOUSE has been falling down (okay, I love to say that), with numbers down at the bottom of the venerable USA ratings stack. With its deep stable of programming, USA doesn't have to stick with low-rated programs, and this month the off-network drama was off the primetime schedule. Tuesday nights were back to LAW & ORDER: SVU. L&O lifted the household and women 25-54 ratings by 30%, while men were basically flat. Median age for the night was up by 10%.

Wednesdays were still wall-to-wall NCIS, and ratings were up by 10% or so for households and women, and down 10% or so for men.

On Thursdays in August, USA finished off the summer seasons of BURN NOTICE and ROYAL PAINS. BURN NOTICE had an exceptionally strong season this year, and it all culminated with the season finale on August 6 at 9PM, when, according to USA, it averaged 7.6 million total viewers, making it the most-watched series telecast in the network's history. (That record was previously held by the premiere of THE 4400 on July 11, 2004). ROYAL PAINS was arguably cable's most successful new series launched this summer. It continued to grow in August, improving numbers over July by nice margins (+16% households, +11% 18-49s, +17% 25-54s). Both BURN NOTICE and ROYAL PAINS attract a fairly even male/female skew, which is a much-needed feature on the USA schedule.

Fridays saw the return of MONK and PSYCH, and a sizable bump in audience. You don't see triple digit increases every month, but USA's Friday night household audience grew by 103% vs. July. Demo audiences grew substantially as well (from +31% on men 18-49 to +80% on women 25-54). Median age for the night grew by 15%. Both MONK and PSYCH were on the air last August as well, and ratings are up for both programs, particularly among men.

There was only one movie on the air on Saturdays this August - Pirates of the Caribbean, 13 movies fell within primetime last August, while there were just seven this year. This month's select slate performed better than both last month's and last year's titles. Top draws were USA standards Sweet Home Alabama, Casino Royale and The Pacifier.

Back to Saturdays - each week was a different block of programming. Was it just a programming hodgepodge or was it a programmer's testing ground? Either way, Saturday night fare varied from week to week - with a movie or a block of NCIS, BURN NOTICE or L&O.: SUV. The best performer among all demos was one of the blocks of NCIS.

On August 9th, LAW & ORDER: CI (ORIG) and IN PLAIN SIGHT aired their respective season finales. They were replaced with movies and blocks of NCIS, both of which were preferred by men, but not by women.  LAW & ORDER: CI picked up steam at the end of its run, when it got a lead-in from sister spin-off LAW & ORDER: SVU. Ratings for CI were up by about 30% on 25-54 ratings vs. last year, and up 18% on women 25-54 ratings vs. last month. CI actually caught IN PLAIN SIGHT on women 25-54 ratings this August. IN PLAIN SIGHT maintained its lead over CI on all other demos, without showing significant growth. The biggest revelation from all this? Both versions of L&O do great with older women, and not so great with other demos. Is that enough for USA? SVU has already been taken off the air once.

And that's the end of USA's big summer of '09.  The network is left with with many new ratings records, a new hit franchise in ROYAL PAINS, and in hot pursuit of the smaller broadcast networks.

PROGRAM ACQUISITIONS:

In February 2009 USA Network acquired the exclusive network television premiere rights to the 2009 Universal Pictures' film slate. The deal is considered to be one of the largest of its kind between a film studio and basic cable network. USA will receive two dozen of the studios' films, including Duplicity with Julia Roberts and Clive Owen, Fast & Furious with Vin Diesel, State of Play with Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck, Land of the Lost with Will Ferrell, Public Enemies with Johnny Depp, Funny People with Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen, Couples Retreat with Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau, The Wolfman with Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins, Green Zone (working title) with Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear and the upcoming untitled Nancy Meyers film with Meryl Streep, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin. Other titles include, Atonement with Keira Knightley and James McAvoy, Away We Go with John Krasinski and Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Boat That Rocked with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Emma Thompson, Cirque du Freak with Salma Hayek and Jane Krakowski, Sam Raimi's Drag Me to Hell, Flash of Genius with Greg Kinnear, Frost/Nixon with Frank Langella and Michael Sheen, The Limits of Control with Bill Murray and John Hurt, Milk with Sean Penn and Josh Brolin, Ethan and Joel Cohen's A Serious Man, Taking Woodstock with Emile Hirsch and Liev Schreiber, Traveling with Jennifer Aniston and Aaron Eckhart, and 9 with Elijah Wood and John C. Reilly.

Movie deals from 2008 include:
After the movie premiered, USA picked up the cable rights to air The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian from Disney ABC Domestic TV for approx. $15million. The 4 and a half-year contract for the movie begins September 2010.

A deal with Paramount will bring Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to USA, in addition to the first three entries in the series.

A New Line TV deal includes ten movies, three of which were pre-buys (Sex and the City: The Movie, Semi-Pro and He's Just Not That Into You). The seven other movies are The Golden Compass, Rendition, Running Scared, El Cantante, Martian Child, The Number 23 and Shoot 'Em Up.

USA is scheduled to air The Golden Compass in July 2010, Semi-Pro in September 2010, Sex and the City: The Movie in January 2011 and He's Just Not That Into You in March 2011.

USA has also agreed with Disney-ABC Domestic TV for the rights to Oscar winner No Country For Old Men, Enchanted and National Treasure: Book of Secrets.

And for those keeping track, USA likes its sequels, with four Raiders, three Pirates of the Caribbeans, two National Treasures, one Ocean's and one Bourne on its increasingly deep bench.

Back in 2007 the net purchased Underdog, My Boss'(Tm) Daughter and Bad Company, all slated to air after 2010.

USA and Syfy signed a $20 million Lionsgate package that includes 3:10 to Yuma (Early 2010), Good Luck Chuck (2010), Employee of the Month (2010) and Jason Statham titles War (2010), Crank (2009) and Chaos (2009).

Other deals include New Line's Hairspray (the 2007 version) for a four-year window beginning in 2010. Also Ocean's 13 (a competitive move after Ocean's 11 kept popping on TNT), License to Wed and Blood Diamond, all from Warner.

PROGRAM RENEWALS:

IN PLAIN SIGHT renewed for a third season. 16 x 60.

WWE RAW has received a multi-year renewal, keeping the top-rated series on USA through 2010.

BURN NOTICE renewed for a fourth season.

ROYAL PAINS renewed for a second season.


PROGRAM CANCELLATIONS:

None announced recently.

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