USA Performance/Schedule Analysis - October 2009

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PERFORMANCE/SCHEDULE ANALYSIS

(Updated as of October 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: 3rd season ran 6/09 - 8/09. . Produced by Fox Television Studios / Fuse Entertainment

HOUSE (DRAMA)
Medical drama following the acerbic Doctor House and his hospital team (Off Fox).
Status: Occasional runs in September, 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. 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 premiere 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 Season 1: June - August 2009 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


SEPTEMBER 2009 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE

TOP PRIMETIME SHOWS:

WWE, NCIS, PSYCH


SCHEDULING STRATEGIES:

USA is extraordinarily consistent month-to-month and week-to-week, yet the networkl manages 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 Friday, 10/23 @ 10PM.

RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Septembert 2009 vs. September 2008
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison:

HH

A18-49

A25-54

Monday 8-11pm

15%

13%

27%

Tuesday 8-11pm

7%

23%

37%

Wednesday 8-11pm

18%

20%

56%

Thursday 8-11pm

7%

-30%

-18%

Friday 8-11pm

13%

-17%

-5%

Saturday 8-11pm

25%

-47%

-38%

Sunday 8-11pm

22%

-42%

-24%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

15%

-14%

1%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

After a record-breaking summer campaign of successful programming, USA retreated this September, with household and adult ratings down about 15% vs. August. The network is still up vs. last year, with 14% better household ratings. However, there seems to be a demo issue, as we see adult 18-49 ratings down 14% and adult 25-54 ratings up just 1%.  Why the inequity? The USA audience has undoubtedly aged; it is nearly 7 years older than it was last September. Part of the issue stems from US Open Tennis coverage that the network dropped this year. But this marks the third month in a row the network has topped the 50+ mark. A look at the night-by-night programming performance helps pinpoint what's working, what's not, and what's driving up that median age (hint: crime dramas).

Mondays deliver the best ratings of the week for households and demos, across the board. WWE is the top-rated program for all demos this month, with no other program coming close. It holds top-rated telecast positions #1, #2, #4, #5, #6, #7, #11, and #12. Ratings haven't changed much from last month, but household ratings are up 23% vs. last year, while men 18-49 ratings are up 16% and men 25-54 ratings are up 27%. The median age for Monday nights is the youngest of the week - in fact it's the only night with an average audience under 50.

LAW & ORDER: SVU knocked out HOUSE last month, and was back with back-to-back runs on Tuesday nights. After its long hiatus from the schedule, the off-NBC crime drama is back with episodes from 2008/2009's season 10 (new eps. for USA). The show is showing renewed appeal, placing high in the program rankings -- #4 among households and #2 among women 18-49, behind only WWE. Compared to last month, the female audience grew by more than 10%, and compared to last year, ratings grew by 34% to 62% (depending on the demo). However, the old problems are still there: a weak male audience and an above average median age.

Wednesdays are wall-to-wall off-CBS drama NCIS, which continues to be an important part of the USA line-up. NCIS is the top-rated program on households (behind WWE), but not on demo - an indicator of an older audience. The program has built up Wednesdays to one of the better-rated nights of the week since last year, but NCIS has shown slight erosion since last month - down 10% on household and female ratings, and holding even with men.

With new episodes of top ratings grabbers BURN NOTICE and ROYAL PAINS gone from Thursdays, the night took a plunge from last month (and last year, when BURN NOTICE was running new episodes from last season). USA tried running NCIS at 8 and repeats of BURN NOTICE and ROYAL PAINS at 9 and 10. The repeats fared poorly, dropping audience from the NCIS lead-in. Quick to respond, USA was programming straight three-hour blocks of NCIS by the end of the month.

After a summer chock full of original episodes of original series, there are only two programs with new episodes left on the air this September...MONK and PYSCH, both running on Friday nights. This is the eighth and final season of MONK, which has gone into broader syndication. There was a MONK marathon on the Friday of Labor Day weekend that failed to pull in numbers above the network average. The three new episodes that ran in the subsequent weeks made the "top 20 telecasts" list, joined only by WWE and NCIS. However, those new episodes lost 8% of household ratings and 16% of women ratings compared to August's premiere month ratings. PSYCH pulls in better 18-49 ratings and lower 25-54 ratings than MONK, making the two programs strong companion series.

Weekends were not strong in September. They took the biggest ratings hits from last year. Compared to August, there were double digit declines on Saturdays among the female demos, and double digit declines for men on Sundays. The weekends continue to be a mix-up; blocks of HOUSE, NCIS, LAW & ORDER: SVU or movies could run on any given night. The best ratings grabber of the bunch continues to be NCIS.

Of note, last September HOUSE started a regular run on USA, airing 40 times. As of late, it has been getting less and less airtime, and was off the schedule entirely this August. It was back on USA in September with just three episodes on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, delivering 40% lower ratings than last year. The series starts up again in October with new-to-USA episodes. Stay tuned for next month's analysis when we will be able to see if USA viewers were tired of Dr. House entirely, or just the old episodes.

Overall, this was not a strong month for USA. But in fairness, September never is, with the new broadcast seasons to compete with, and the transition from the peak summer months to navigate. The rest of 2009 will bring a new drama series (WHITE COLLAR) and the series finale of MONK. We're expecting a speedy recovery.

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' 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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