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A&E Analysis - December 2010 - Broadcasting & Cable

A&E Analysis - December 2010

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DECEMBER 2010 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:

* Bold denotes programming change

SCHEDULING STRATEGIES:

The network's scheduling approach appears to break the week into two parts:  Monday-Thursday, and the weekend.  In both instances, it's all about stacking themes or singular series throughout the night.

Monday-Thursday is dominated by reality based series, mostly within the crime and justice category.  Signature series INTERVENTION, DOG THE BOUNTY HUNTER, and FIRST 48 anchor the evenings, more often than not, in the form of two hour blocks.  The 10pm timeslots feature a rotating mix of real life and reality series that include the human condition, crime, pop culture, celeb-reality, and paranormal.  Many of the series tend to be half hours scheduled back to back to fill the slot

Friday and Saturday feature three hour stacks of CRIMINAL MINDS.  Sunday nights have been switching every few months between CSI: MIAMI/CRIMINALMINDS and reality series, with dramas the current mainstay.

DECEMBER 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

Live Primetime Ratings Comparison /December 2010 vs. December 2009 (% Change)

HH

A18-49

A25-54

Monday 8-11pm

-29%

-35%

-32%

Tuesday 8-11pm

5%

9%

12%

Wednesday 8-11pm

-12%

-18%

-16%

Thursday 8-11pm

9%

26%

16%

Friday 8-11pm

-32%

-32%

-28%

Saturday 8-11pm

-40%

-7%

-18%

Sunday 8-11pm

-55%

-34%

-36%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

-26%

-17%

-17%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

Year end numbers tell an interesting story.  2010 was on par with the prior year for Adults 18-49 and down a very slight 2% for the 25-54 group.  Unfortunately, the better months came early and 2010 ended on a down note.  4th Quarter was down significantly from year ago. December was a big part of that drop.  Granted last December was one of the highest rated in their history, but there's no avoiding the reality.  This is the 4th consecutive month of year on year losses.

Highlight of the month was the debut of STORAGE WARS.  The Thom Beers produced skein landed the the top spot for the month, with premieres and repeats dominating the channel's Top 20 rated exhibitions list.  A combination of gambling and auctions, the series follows a group of characters that make a living buying the contents of foreclosed storage containers in a rapid fire, on the spot auction.  Expect the series' success to be copied more than once elsewhere in the cable landscape.

PEACEMAKER came out of the gate with decent numbers on Thursdays, and then fell down in week two.  Not a good sign for the future.

Anchor series struggled.  INTERVENTION, HOARDERS, and DOG THE BOUNTY HUNTER were all down from last year.  And not by small amounts.  More concerning, all three series featured premiere episodes throughout the month.  Premieres were OK, but not as strong as we've seen in the past, while repeats have their usual fade.  FIRST 48 was the alone in the group.  Premieres across the month and double digit increases over last year.

Two our favorites, BILLY THE EXTERMINATOR and GENE SIMMONS FAMILY JEWELS were a little better.  New episodes were strong and repeats held serve in most  instances.  We're still waiting for the episode that SIMMONS filmed a few months ago at MIPCOM though.  Maybe next season.

CRIMINAL MINDS has taken a lower profile in prime time.  Once filling up 2-3 nights a week, the off CBS series is only found on Fridays of late.  Ratings are down across the board, all age groups, both demos.  It's the primary reason for the network's drop in HH.  Conversely, it's disappearance from a couple nights is also the reason the median age has been getting younger.

And then there's the two newest attempts at celeb reality.  STRANGE DAYS WITH BOB SAGET was just that.  It wrapped up what will likely be it's only season near the bottom of the channel's ratings.  At the absolute bottom and very publicly yanked from the schedule sits THE HASSELHOFFS.  Yes, the first man voted off DANCING WITH THE STARS this year didn't find much more love on A&E.  One week, two episodes and he's gone.

CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:

A&E made a lot of drastic program content changes in recent years, going more mainstream in reality and moving away from such staple doc series as BIOGRAPHY, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTS, and AMERICAN JUSTICE.  Properties like STEVEN SEAGAL: LAWMEN, THE FIRST 48 and MANHUNTERS still maintain the network's roots in crime/investigation, while reality shows like DOG THE BOUNTY HUNTER, INTERVENTION, HOARDERS, and GENE SIMMONS FAMILY JEWELS define the network today.  DOG THE BOUNTY HUNTER and GROWING UP GOTTI helped bring A&E into the world of general entertainment, by taking its tradition of crime into reality programming. After growing in popularity with younger demos, A&E was able to branch out even more with shows like INKED, KING OF CARS, and DRIVING FORCE.  All of these programs had compelling, quirky and/or unique characters, along with something edgy in their lifestyle.  The genre has grown to include the human condition and the paranormal.

In early 2007, the network announced its first development slate of drama series in years.  The first project to come out of that slate, THE CLEANER starring Benjamin Bratt, premiered in July, 2008.  A second season soon followed.  THE BEAST, starring the late Patrick Swayze, solidified the network's foothold in the genre, building on their acquired dramas, particularly CRIMINAL MINDS, and the successful real life franchises. The newest addition, THE GLADES, hit the schedule this summer and more pilots are in the production hopper now.

A&E tries to be just edgy enough to fuel publicity and appeal to a younger audience. Strong characters, as in DOG THE BOUNTY HUNTER and BILLY THE EXTERMINATOR, mixed in select celeb-reality offerings sit across the week.  The human condition has formed the basis for their Monday nights over the last year with INTERVENTION, OBSESSED, and HOARDERS.

IMPORTANT: The network doesn't refer to itself as a "women's" channel, but the gender skew leans almost 60% female.  Something to keep in mind when developing a program pitch.

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