TNT’s signature original series run Sunday through Wednesday. An ever-rotating mix of BONES, LAW & ORDER and THE MENTALIST are dominant on the schedule, leading into the originals, or airing as three-hour stacks. Action dramas that can draw male viewers such as SOUTHALND and LEVERAGE have been getting movies as lead-ins. NBA runs on Thursdays, when it’s the season, otherwise it’s an off-net crime drama and/or a movie. Theatricals dominate Friday and Saturday, plus Sundays when originals are not running.
TNT’s high profile original series tend to run in the summer months and in December, when the broadcast nets are in hiatus or repeat mode. When the broadcast nets are in full swing, such as sweep months or the beginning of the new seasons, TNT benches its best shows, saving them for when they can shine. TBS, TNT and Turner Classic Movies executive vice president and head of programming Michael Wright said the Turner services typically hold their new and returning series premieres until December and early January to avoid the marketplace clutter. “I’m not that anxious to get into that September to early November period — not that I don’t believe in our programming, but it’s just too crowded a field,” (MULTICHANNEL NEWS).
MARCH 2012 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / March 2012 vs March 2011 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
MARCH 2012: TNT has an exciting new season planned for 2012. New programs and new genres will begin to hit TNT’s air in mid-June, including a new reality competition program (THE GREAT ESCAPE), the revival of iconic primetime soap DALLAS and the final episodes of THE CLOSER. In addition, the net has a long slate of programs in development and a healthy number of dramas returning this summer.
Which is all welcome news, because TNT is struggling right now. Bottom line live primetime ratings fell again this March, marking the tenth month in a row with year over year declines. Core adult 25-54 audience ratings were down 16% vs. last month and 12% vs. last year. The ratings were dominated by basketball, both NBA regular season and NCAA championship games, and as viewership for those games dropped, TNT’s primetime ratings followed. When NBA returned in late December, ratings were right back with it, and it looked like interest in the sport had not waned despite the extended lock-out. However, the last two months have seen precipitous decline. The average NBA game rating was off by nearly 20% on core audiences and college championship games showed decline vs. last year as well.
Basketball wasn’t the only program in town. Theatricals did well this month, improving over last year and last month, particularly with men. National Treasure and Bourne Ultimatum were stand-outs. They also contributed to SOUTHLAND’s success. SOUTHLAND continued to air on Tuesday nights with a blockbuster action movie as a lead-in each week (such as Rush Hour 3, Terminator Salvation). Compared to last year’s ratings the drama improved with men but lost women, essentially netting out with the same adult ratings vs. last year and dropping just 4% from last month. So while SOUTHLAND didn’t break any ratings barriers, it managed to hold audience, which was admirable given the performance of the rest of the line-up.
THE MENTALIST and THE CLOSER encores run on Mondays, drawing an older female audience. THE CLOSER saw an uptick in ratings vs. last month but THE MENTALIST dropped audience, particularly its male viewers.
In fact, the off-net procedurals did not do well this month. A LAW & ORDER stack is in place on Wednesday nights. The program average dropped 20% of its core women ratings vs. last month. Last year a stack of BONES comprised the Wednesday night line-up, and ratings are virtually the same on households, but they are one-third lower this year among women. LAW & ORDER pulls in the lowest ratings among all of the regularly scheduled programs, and Wednesday is the lowest rated night of the week. BONES continues to draw better ratings than LAW & ORDER, but it aired in primetime only two times this March, while LAW & ORDER ran 13 times.
Looking ahead, basketball championships air in April and May, and then TNT launches into its peak summer season, where it will introduce an ambitious line-up. The success or failure of this summer’s new genres and programs will help chart the course for TNT’s future programming and scheduling strategies.