USA Performance/Schedule Analysis - September 2008

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PERFORMANCE/SCHEDULE ANALYSIS
(Updated as of October 20, 2008)

TARGET DEMOGRAPHIC:

Adults 18-49 & Adults 25-54

SEPTEMBER 2008 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE

TOP PRIMETIME SHOWS:

MONK, BURN NOTICE, HOUSE, WWE, PSYCH

SCHEDULING STRATEGIES:

USA is usually all about consistency. The network is typically 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.

But for September, we can throw that out the window. This was a big month of change for USA's schedule. The first week of the month was pre-empted by US OPEN TENNIS (for the last time, as that franchise moves on to ESPN and Tennis Channel next year.) And for the long term, there's a new sheriff in town to help LAW & ORDER: SVU hold down the fort. Actually, there's a new doctor in town; HOUSE is in the house, with a Monday through Friday strip and lot's of three-hour primetime programming blocks on the weekends.

When HOUSE and SVU are not on the air, you can find WWE on Mondays and theatricals, or highly rated USA originals on the other nights. Originals tend to run on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays.

PROGRAM/SCHEDULE CHANGES:

AUGUST-SEPTEMBER 2008:

As stated above, the first week of September brought the final week of US OPEN TENNIS coverage to USA, It was also on USA the last week of August.

As USA's original dramas finished up their seasons, HOUSE and LAW & ORDER: SVU filled in the holes.

After making occasional successful primetime appearances, HOUSE debuted full-time on USA September 8th, running all over the line-up with a Monday - Friday strip plus three hour blocks on weekends. So with 37 primetime hours, HOUSE dominated the schedule this month. SVU had nine hours of primetime.  For those doing the math, that adds up to more than 50% of the line up.

PREMIERES:

** September 8 @ 8PM: HOUSE (OFF-FOX)

FINALES:
** September 12 @ 9PM: MONK (September 5 - 100th episode)
** September 12 @ 10PM: PSYCH
** September 18 @ 10PM: BURN NOTICE

OCTOBER AND BEYOND:

PREMIERES
:
** October 10 @ 9PM: THE STARTER WIFE
(10PM is the regular time-slot. The series debuts with a two hour 9-11PM special on the 10th)

YEAR AGO/BIG PICTURE:

USA's bottom line numbers grew by about 10% for households and nearly 20% for demos this year vs. last. Weekends took flight, nearly doubling their audience in some cases, on the back of Dr. HOUSE.

HOUSE dominated the weekend line-up, airing in three-hour blocks on each weekend night except for two. Audiences obviously approved, and it helped improve demo performance as well - Saturday's median age decreased by 17% vs. last year's movies. Sunday night saw a six percent drop in median age against last year's young-skewing THE 4400 and THE DEAD ZONE.

Monday through Friday saw mixed results, resulting from a mixed up schedule. USA is renowned for its consistency, but this month viewers found tennis one week, finales of USA's original dramas in the following weeks, and then movies, HOUSE or LAW & ORDER: SVU in the final weeks of the month. Overall, Mondays and Wednesdays were about even on demo, Tuesdays lost some men (-15%) and Thursdays gained a significant amount of women (+20%), and Fridays were up evenly across the board (+12%).

Overall, this was a good month for USA, with HOUSE coming to the rescue just as audiences were beginning to tire of SVU repeats.

SEPTEMBER 2008 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

USA recovered nicely from a weak August, pulling in seven percent higher household audiences, 30% higher 18-49 audiences and 15% higher 25-54 audiences. Overall, the median age is down by nine percent. While tennis was generally a drag on the line-up the first week of the month, the network did nicely with an infusion of HOUSE to the line-up, plus successful season finales of three original dramas.

On Mondays US OPEN TENNIS and HOUSE were the new lead-ins for WWE. While the night is basically even on households and 25-54 demos, and up about 10% on 18-49 demos, WWE is actually down by ten percent or so across the board. Even with these losses WWE remains the top rated program among men, with a very wide margin. It's also the only program on the line-up with a male skew.

Tuesdays started with an hour of LAW & ORDER; SVU, followed by two hours of HOUSE. HOUSE always built on the L&O lead-in. It was the lowest rated night of the week among men, even though the male audience increased by 25% - 30%.  Wednesdays (L&O / HOUSE / movie) were the lowest rated night among households and women, but grew 18-49 audience by 20% or so.  You could say HOUSE has been able to bring up the bottom-line by bringing up the bottom.

Thursdays were basically flat vs. last month. The last two episodes of BURN NOTICE's second season did well, improving performance of the show by ten to twenty percent vs. last month.

MONK's 100th episode ran on Friday, September 5th, while the season (and probably series) finale ran on the 12th. The program continued to improve, with a 14% bigger household audience and 25% bigger adult audience than last month. PSYCH also showed nice gains in its final weeks, with a 6% household gain and 15% adult audience gain.

On the weekends HOUSE dominated with six of eight nights devoted to the good doctor. Demo audiences skyrocketed vs. last month, with Saturday's audience more than doubling in size. Sunday saw demo growth that ranged from +18% growth among women 25-54 to +60% growth among women 18-49. Saturday was USA's best share night for women this month, a nice strategic get in a low viewed / low competition night.

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:

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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