Comedy Central Analysis - July 2011

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JULY 2011 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:

* Bold denotes programming change

SCHEDULING STRATEGIES:

Comedy Central is adept at mixing original series with acquisitions such as ITS ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA and SCRUBS to deliver consistent young adult audiences. Their strategy of using established lead-ins such as SOUTH PARK to introduce new hits such as TOSH.0 has paid off: top-rated TOSH.0 is now being used in a similar fashion to introduce new series. The latest debut to benefit from a SOUTH PARK lead-in, WORKAHOLICS, was renewed for a second season after only four episodes.

With over 200 episodes still in rotation, SOUTH PARK, the traditional go-to series to fill problem time periods, has been joined by FUTURAMA and TOSH.0 in that role. Friday nights are devoted to Stand-Up specials, with movies and more Stand-Up  dominating the rest of the Weekend.

Comedy Central's schedule stands out in nonfiction cable (excluding news/sports networks) because two of its highest-profile franchises, THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART and THE COLBERT REPORT, are weekday live-to-tape productions. Comedy Central's programs are arranged on a grid rare for its dependably predictable pattern -- day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, even year-to-year. These folks surely have some of the strongest appointment viewing numbers in the business. Their audience is also unusually, enviably young - hovering, on average, around thirty-one years old. That it also skews male should make you imagine the sound of money being printed.

JULY 2011 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

Live Primetime Ratings Comparison July 2011 vs. July 2010 (% Change)

HH

M18-49

W18-49

Monday 8-11pm

-21%

-31%

-8%

Tuesday 8-11pm

-1%

8%

-3%

Wednesday 8-11pm

-23%

-15%

-44%

Thursday 8-11pm

-18%

-16%

-26%

Friday 8-11pm

-17%

-3%

-19%

Saturday 8-11pm

-2%

-2%

4%

Sunday 8-11pm

-14%

-16%

-22%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

-14%

-12%

-19%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

After a  June that was essentially flat with last year and last month, July was down across-the-board by modest double-digits. Only Tuesday showed slight growth in M18-49, with Monday suffering distinct declines in that demo, and Wednesday down by nearly half for RW 18-49. July was essentially flat with last month.

Three series - SOUTH PARK, FUTURAMA and IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA filled 57% of Comedy Central's Prime lineup in July. Each series was down across the board by 20-30% from its performance in July 2010. The only network series to grow year-to-year was TOSH.0.

On Mondays in May an early-Prime movie usually led into IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA  from 9-11pm. While  the two-hour block grows steadily through the night, Households and younger men are off by 1/3 from the series performance in the same time period last July.

On Tuesday,  just- renewed 1030pm offering WORKAHOLICS  struggled to hold more than half of the lead-in provided by fresh TOSH.0 episodes at 10pm.   TOSH.0 continues to be the strongest series on Comedy Central. Whether its lead-in is an 8pm Stand-up special, or an 830pm episode of SOUTH PARK, TOSH.0 grows significantly at 9p, and that growth continues through the one and half hour block.

Wednesday suffered from a lack of fresh episodes  of SOUTH PARK at 10pm. The network's losses on this night were exacerbated by new 1030pm vehicle JON BENJAMIN HAS A VAN's loss of 40% of the lead-in's delivery for HH and M18-49. The good news for the new series is that there was virtually no viewer erosion from week 1 to week 5 of its debut season.

With the 35  episodes of CHAPPELLE'S SHOW double-running from 8-9pm steadily for over three years, that series had begun to decline in recent months. Despite a seeming return to form in May and June, CHAPPELLE'S numbers in July were well below 2010 levels, with younger women down by nearly half from last July.

The premiere of Season 2 of UGLY AMERICANS  Thursday at 1030pm led to another shift in the animation schedule, with FUTURAMA replacing SOUTH PARK at 9pm. Despite a lead-in powered by new episodes of FUTURAMA at 10pm, UGLY AMERICANS dropped a startling 42% in RM 18-49 from week  to week 5 of the survey. HH and demo delivery was down slightly from June.

A repeat of GABRIEL IGLESIAS: I'M NOT FAT was the lone Friday highlight among the various Stand-Up offerings.

Weekend highlights included the premiere of CHRISTOPHER TITUS: NEVERLUTION, as well as repeats of Specials from network stalwarts Jeff Dunham and Ron White. TALLADEGA NIGHTS was the top-rated Movie offering this month.

CABLEU NEED TO KNOW

Comedy ranks among the top 10 cablers for the 18-34 demographic, and mainly with a mix of their original series, stand-up and sketch, not off-net acquisitions like most of the other cable networks.

Originals are sketch, stand-up, reality, and animation.

Comedy over the past year or so has actively been buying movie packages from many of the big studio distributors and it doesn't look like they are slowing down anytime soon.

Important:

Comedy's strategy of having young male demographics as their primary audience has helped them for potential growth. Comedy is on a roll and focusing on the future by securing top talent and development deals. Projects in development run the gamut from short-form and sketch/variety to scripted narrative and animation starring a cross-section of top comedic talent. Sketch comedies and animation are on tap for Comedy as part of its new slate of original pilots. Recent sitcoms (WORKAHOLICS)  and animation (UGLY AMERICANS) have earned immediate second season orders, which keeps fresh material with a proven track record on the schedule for all four quarters.

Comedy Central knows what's funny. One of the many growing networks, they are one of the most successful for on-air, online and on-the-go mobile technology.According to network honcho Michele Ganeless: " Our strategy is to provide our audience with the tools they need to become evangelists for the shows and talent they love. If we give them the right tools and materials, social media allows them to spread the word on their own, with a voice of authenticity that can only come from the fans."

They give their viewers access to the cutting-edge original programming, stand-up and sketch comedy, plus offbeat comedy TV series and movies. Their strategy of attracting the young male demographic continues to grow month to month whether their strategy be one off originals or stunt/holiday programming.

Comedy continues to acquire a variety of original stand-up comedy programs and specials. There are three outlets currently for talent that the network features stand-up shows: COMEDY CENTRAL PRESENTS, LIVE AT GOTHAM, as well as one-hour specials filmed exclusively for COMEDY CENTRAL.

Comedy, which like TBS, keeps its entire focus on the Comedy genre, has new seasons of several original series in production for 2011-12, including Futurama, South Park and Tosh.0  Cable networks in record numbers are launching their own comedies out of sheer necessity because there are so few comedies being scheduled by the broadcast networks. Since the late 1990s, reality shows have steadily displaced comedies on the broadcast side, and many broadcast comedy writers have shifted to cable.

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