USA Performance/Schedule Analysis - December 2008

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PERFORMANCE/SCHEDULE ANALYSIS
(Updated as of January 19, 2009)

TARGET DEMOGRAPHIC:

Adults 18-49 & Adults 25-54

DECEMBER 2008 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE

TOP PRIMETIME SHOWS:

NCIS, WWE, HOUSE

SCHEDULING STRATEGIES:

USA is all about consistency. The network is extraordinarily consistent month-to-month and week-to-week, making it easy for viewers to, well...view. They know what to find and when to tune-in.

HOUSE has replaced SVU as the glue that holds the network together...it dominates the line-up with strips and three-hour primetime blocks. 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 network, but they do tend to gear up for the holiday season.

PROGRAM/SCHEDULE CHANGES:

NOVEMBER - DECEMBER 2008:

December 2008 marks the first month that LAW & ORDER: SVU was not anywhere on the primetime schedule. HOUSE took up even more space on the schedule with an average of 15 eps. per week, pushing L&O out. NCIS ran four times this December, but hasn't found a permanent time slot yet. THE STARTER WIFE ended its run on the 12th, without any word of a renewal.

PREMIERES:

NONE

FINALES:
** December 12 @ 10PM: THE STARTER WIFE

JANUARY AND BEYOND:

PREMIERES
:
** January 9 @ 10PM: PSYCH returns for second half of second season
** January 9 @ 9PM: MONK returns for second half of seventh season
** January 22: BURN NOTICE returns for second half of second season
** February 9 & 10: WESTMINSTER DOG SHOW  
** SPRING 2009: LAW & ORDER: CI eighth season debuts with all 16 episodes
** SPRING 2009: IN PLAIN SIGHT returns for a second season

YEAR AGO/BIG PICTURE:

USA pulled well ahead of last year's numbers, particularly among male viewers. Household share increased just +3%, while female share increased by +10% and male share increased by +15% (men 18-49) and +20% (men 25-54). Median age remained the same. HOUSE was primarily responsible for these shifts as the medical drama pushed out the crime drama of LAW & ORDER and all its incantations.

In fact, HOUSE was one of the few bright spots on the schedule. WWE continued its erosion, dropping quite a few of its core male viewers versus last year.  Ratings were off by 14% among men 18-49 and -4% among men 25-54, even with the stronger HOUSE lead-in at 8PM. Last year's lone original, LAW & ORDER: CI performed much stronger among all demos than this December's lone original, THE STARTER WIFE. And this year's five movies (including two ELFs and one 40-Year-Old Virgin) pulled in lower ratings than last year's twelve movies (including three ELFs and five 40-Year-Old Virgins). Not sure just when 40-Year-Old Virgin became a Christmas classic...

In the face of all these underperformers, USA showed us its scheduling savvy once again. The network pulled LAW & ORDER when it was clear the program was weighing down the line-up and driving out the men. The influx of HOUSE and a small yet potent dose of NCIS revived the line-up and put the network into the positive rather than negative numbers.

DECEMBER 2008 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

USA picked up about ten percent or better ratings across the board this month vs. last, as HOUSE took over more than 70% of the schedule. While there were quite a few success stories, the influence of HOUSE permeated the network, the line-up and the numbers,

On Mondays, WWE is still the net's top performer among men. Male ratings for the show are even with last month's, but the Monday night ratings are slightly up across the board, due to the HOUSE lead-in.

Tuesday nights took off this month with 20% or higher ratings among men and +15% better ratings among women 18-49. Women 25-54 were down -2%. The line-up was similar to last month - movie lead-ins to two-hour blocks of HOUSE. The older women tuned out due to young-skewing movie titles like 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Wednesdays also showed steep ratings increases among men (+30%), women 18-49 (+22%) and even women 25-54 (+15%) due primarily to the heavy presence of HOUSE and the lack of LAW & ORDER: SVU.

Thursday was wall to wall HOUSE both this month and last. Male ratings were basically flat while female ratings climbed just over +10%. Thursday is one of USA's stronger nights for women, but it's among the lower rated for men, as it faces competition from NBA on TNT and broadcast fare.

Fridays still have the strongest female skew of the week, even with just two runs of THE STARTER WIFE. The series' first official season came to a close on the 12th (the last run was considered a mini-series) with basically the same female ratings as last month. When HOUSE took over the timeslot, ratings jumped across the board. Not surprisingly, a renewal has not been announced, and we don't expect to hear one anytime soon.

The best-performing night of the month was Saturday the 27th, when a three-hour block of NCIS ran in primetime. All three telecasts made the top-ten household list. HOUSE is still preferred by women, but NCIS topped HOUSE among men. And it brought a bit of much-needed variety to the HOUSE-heavy schedule.

Sundays were all about HOUSE again this month. After taking a dip in November, the night is back up (by over 20%), and once again shares the honor of being the first or second-highest rated night with Mondays.

The bottom-line? HOUSE. The program is still relatively new to the schedule and can pop both the male and female numbers, no matter how many times it appears. It has booted out the long-standing LAW & ORDER franchise, and is the new bar by which any program or movie must measure up against.

ADDITIONAL RATINGS ANALYSIS:

The season two premiere of BURN NOTICE on Thursday, January 22 at 10p drew in 2.47 million A18-49 viewers, the most since the show began. The debut episode also attracted 2.69 million A25-54 viewers and 5.12 million total viewers. (USA).

The premiere episode of the second half of season seven of MONK on Friday, January 9 drew 5.25 million viewers and 2.32 million adults 25-54. The premiere of PSYCH on the same night drew 4.14 million viewers, holding onto 79 percent of its Monk lead-in. (MediaWeek)

PROGRAM ACQUISITIONS:

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.

But pre-buys are what's in fashion now, and USA Network is in the game with both Paramount and New Line. USA bought Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull before its theatrical release, plus the first three entries in the series. USA ran the previous three in the series -- Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), The Temple of Doom (1984) and The Last Crusade (1989) -- in May and June 2008, attracting big audiences.

The New Line TV deal includes ten movies, three of which are 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 had already implemented a strategy of selective movie acquisitions, purchasing exclusive basic-cable rights to Disney's The Game Plan to start airing in 2009. Starring "The Rock," it is an obvious fit with USA's Monday night WWE RAW series.

In addition, they have purchased Underdog, My Boss' Daughter and Bad Company, all slated to air after 2010.

USA and SciFi 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:

MONK: Renewed for an eighth and final season to air the summer of 2009, with a 16-episode order.

BURN NOTICE: Renewed for a third season, with a 16-episode order.

PSYCH: Renewed for a fourth season, with a 16-episode order.

IN PLAIN SIGHT: A second season has been ordered.

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

PROGRAM CANCELLATIONS:

Maybe not technically a cancellation, but USA has taken a pass on US OPEN TENNIS. 2008 will be the last year tennis fans can find the opening week of the tournament on USA. Starting in 2009 it will be shared by ESPN and The Tennis Channel.

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