USA Performance/Schedule Analysis - October 2008

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PERFORMANCE/SCHEDULE ANALYSIS
(Updated as of November 17, 2008)

TARGET DEMOGRAPHIC:

Adults 18-49 & Adults 25-54

OCTOBER 2008 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE

TOP PRIMETIME SHOWS:

WWE, HOUSE, THE STARTER WIFE

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 and SVU are the glue that holds the network together...they dominate 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 will gear up again for the holiday season.

PROGRAM/SCHEDULE CHANGES:

SEPTEMBER - OCTOBER 2008:

After a volatile September of US OPEN TENNIS and the end of three original series in the middle of the month, USA is back on a steadier track. THE STARTER WIFE debuted on Friday, October 10th as the only original airing this month, and the rest of the schedule firmed up.

HOUSE and LAW & ORDER: SVU take up even more of the schedule, with 47 hours of HOUSE and 22 hours of SVU combining for an overwhelming 85% of the October line-up.

There was only one night of movies on the primetime schedule this month, while there were six last month.

PREMIERES:

** October 10 @ 9PM: THE STARTER WIFE, time slot premiere October 17 @ 10PM

FINALES:
NONE

NOVEMBER 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
** First Quarter 2009: LAW & ORDER: CI eighth season debuts with all 16 episodes
**February 11 & 12: WESTMINSTER DOG SHOW

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


YEAR AGO/BIG PICTURE:

USA made respectable gains on its demo audiences this year vs. last; while Monday through Sunday primetime household audiences were flat, male audiences grew by 20% and female audiences grew by about 5%. Most of the charge came from the weekend.  (Fridays showed 50% or better increases among men, 37% increases among women 18-49 and 21% increases among women 25-54. Saturday was up 25% among men and flat among women, while Sunday was up more than 40% among men and more than 20% among women.)

The improved audience composition reflects a refreshed line-up, due almost entirely to HOUSE.  The off-Fox program's addition to USA's schedule brought in better comps and bigger audiences than the LAW & ORDER: SVU, LAW & ORDER: CI and the theatricals that it replaced.

THE STARTER WIFE on Fridays in the 10PM time slot also proved to be a better performer, particularly among younger women, than last year's repeats of USA original LAW & ORDER: CI.

The only night to show significant declines was Thursdays, where both household and female audiences saw 20% or greater declines.  Last year the network offered up new telecasts of USA original LAW & ORDER: CI while this year's fare consisted of off-net runs of LAW & ORDER: SVU. Men were never core viewers of any of the L&O series, and they were indifferent to the switch; men 18-49 were even for the night and men 25-54 were off by just 9%.

OCTOBER 2008 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

USA's total primetime audience was up just slightly this month vs. last, with increases between one percent and four percent. Share was exactly the same as September across the board.

On Mondays, demo audience was up over 10% across the board, and while WWE did show some improvement vs. September, it was actually the lead-in, HOUSE, that pulled up the numbers over the ten percent mark. HOUSE proves a nice lead-in to wrestling over LAW & ORDER: SVU with a stronger male skew. Wrestling remains the highest rated program among men and households.

HOUSE is the best-rated program among women, but the best-rated telecasts were on Sundays. Tuesday was one of the most improved nights of the week, with an 8:00 run of SVU followed by HOUSE at 9 & 10.  In fact the entire Tuesday through Thursday line-up consists solely of SVU and HOUSE, in various configurations. And, on average, Tuesdays through Thursdays are the lowest rated nights of the week.

The long-awaited debut of THE STARTER WIFE was on Friday, October 10th. Except for the first week, USA's newest original drama lost audience from its HOUSE lead-in for all demos. The program is showing a strong female skew -- 70% or more female. (USA's total primetime skews about 60% female, and that's with male-skewing WWE in the mix.) While THE STARTER WIFE does beat SVU among women, it is not a top ratings performer compared to other USA originals. But, it did launch at a difficult time, in the middle of the broadcast premieres, so perhaps it just needs some more time.

Saturdays were back to mostly movies and SVU blocks, after being dominated by HOUSE last month. As a result, household delivery was about the same, but demos took a 15% to 20% dive, and the median age increased by 15% for the night.

Sundays are still wall-to-wall HOUSE (get it?), and doing fine, thank you very much. It is the first or second best-performing night for households and demos.

The standard on USA for the past few years has been SVU. If a show doesn't perform as well as SVU, why keep it around? So, it looks like HOUSE is a definite hit for the network, and THE STARTER WIFE does its job among women.

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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