MARCH 2010 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:
* Bold denotes programming change
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.
MARCH 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison /March 2010 vs. March 2009 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
Network was down slightly from last year. Double digit losses in men outweighed small gains for women in both target age breaks. Two year trend was also down a little. Median age came down just hair, likely a result of reality coming back on Sundays.
Monday series HOARDERS and INTERVENTION normally lead the pack by a wide margin. Not so in March. Both series wrapped up their seasons in the first week, moving to a repeat schedule in subsequent weeks. HOARDERS stayed well ahead of net averages, although it did drop 15-20% from February. INTERVENTION was average for the network, but down as much as 20% from last month and last year. A little rest a some new episodes will be the cure.
BILLY THE EXTERMINATOR returned in March with new episodes (formerly titled THE EXTERMINATORS in case you were wondering). Billy was a sleeper success last year, quietly pulling in some strong demo deliveries on a consistent basis. No real fanfare, just solid performances. Second season picks up right where Billy left off. Above average audiences in all key demos every week.
Veteran series had a decent month. THE FIRST 48 had featured premieres each Thursday, ending above average for the month and improving on last year by 5-15%. MANHUNTERS also loaded up on premieres and reaped the benefits. Above average audiences and year on year increases in the 5-10% range for key demos. Gender split was about 50/50, still rare for a series on this network. DOG THE BOUNTY HUNTER had premieres ready as the lead-in to BILLY THE EXTERMINATOR. All three weeks were solidly in the plus column.
CRIMINAL MINDS and CSI MIAMI were the top rated and #4 series respectively for total viewers this month. As always, the off net properties didn't fare as well in the younger demos, falling below average in most measurements despite the large number of households coming to the set. Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday were the three oldest nights of the week.
Sunday featured the return of one celeb reality series and the debut of another. Former CHEERS star Kirstie Alley entered the celeb reality pool with her new series KIRSTIE ALLEY'S BIG LIFE. Following the standard formula with the family, support staff, and timely crises as storyline, Kirstie drew very solid numbers out of the gate. First two weeks of back to back eps were above net average, although it did lose a considerable portion of the A25-54 lead-in each time.
Finally, one of our favorite series was back for a 5th season in March. GENE SIMMONS FAMILY JEWELS, returns with the kind of numbers that remind us why the series has become a staple on the schedule. Demo deliveries were as much as 40% above network averages. That's music to a programmer's ears. Editorally, officially adding Kiss' lead singer Paul Stanley in regular guest appearances gives producers the opportunity to go out on tour with the band in search of fresh stories. And in the story arc for the first few episodes, we're glad to see that Shannon's medical situation turned out OK.
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.
A&E tries to be just edgy enough to fuel publicity and appeal to its new, younger audience. New program decisions are based on current successful blocks and formats; so whatever is working now, count on A&E wanting more of the same but new.
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.