TNT Analysis

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SCHEDULING STRATEGIES:

TNT’s signature original series run Sunday through Wednesday. Off-network procedurals such as 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.

Two returning shows, DALLAS and SOUTHLAND, plus two new shows (medical drama MONDAY MORNINGS and unscripted series BOSTON'S FINEST) will premiere in January and February. Which doesn't sound that extraordinary until you consider that TNT’s long-standing strategy was to run high profile original series 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 benched its best shows, saving them for when they could shine. But the net is now aiming to schedule through-out most of the year by 2013.

In addition to the longer programming cycle, there will be a bigger and more well-rounded slate of programming that features reality, competition and maybe even docu-soaps in addition to the usual dramatic scripted fare. The action-adventure reality competitions and crime and investigation formats TNT is going for can be nicely scheduled to complement TNT’s movies and crime dramas.

SEPTEMBER 2012 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

Live + Same Day Primetime Ratings Comparison / September 2012 vs September 2011  (% Change)

  HH

A18-49

A25-54

Monday 8-11pm

    -16%

   -24%

   -25%

Tuesday 8-11pm

    -12%

   -20%

    -17%

Wednesday 8-11pm

     -5%

   -13%

     -8%

Thursday 8-11pm

      8%

    -8%

     5%

Friday 8-11pm

    -15%

    -7%

    -6%

Saturday 8-11pm

     -6%

     -2%

      2%

Sunday 8-11pm

     18%

    17%

    24%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

   -7%

     -8%

   -7%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

SEPTEMBER 2012: This month was a case-study of a network transitioning out of its own peak season and into the fall broadcast peak season. High profile dramas (DALLAS and FALLING SKIES) were gone, while RIZZOLI & ISLES was back with just repeats. Two of the three remaining original dramas finished out their seasons. Off-net procedurals were tried out in different time slots on different nights, as the network tried to find the right mix. In the end, bottom line adult 25-54 ratings were off by 14% vs. last month and by 7% vs. last year. Which sounds respectable until you consider there were just a handful of new episodes of original dramas on the air last year (six) and there were thirteen on the air this September. But, it’s hard to get the whole picture from looking at the bottom line.

While Monday nights pulled the best numbers on TNT’s line-up, the night is not doing as well as last year when THE CLOSER and RIZZOLI were on the air -- down 16% on households and 25% on adults 25-54. Top-rated MAJOR CRIMES, spin-off of THE CLOSER, plus second-best rated PERCEPTION headlined the night and both programs topped TNT and all of cable on total audiences, if not demos.  MAJOR CRIMES premiered last month with huge numbers, aided by the series finale of THE CLOSER. Numbers fell in the second week, but held and even grew after that this month. Until broadcast premiere season hit, and then the numbers slipped by 15% or so. The 8PM encore of the previous week’s new episode is pulling numbers on par with off-net acquisitions. PERCEPTION follows at 10PM, losing about 20% of MAJOR CRIMES’ lead-in. Of note, PERCEPTION’s demo audience is doing better with a MAJOR CRIMES lead-in than with THE CLOSER as a lead-in. The first season of MAJOR CRIMES closes up in mid-October, and will be back with a second season of 15 episodes next summer, as will PERCEPTION.

Tuesdays were also down vs. last year: -12% on household and -17% on adults 25-54. The night was a straight stack of BONES until repeats of RIZZOLI’s third season moved in at 10PM for the last three weeks, where it quickly settled at the bottom of the ratings rankers. BONES has been holding, basically flat to slightly up vs. last year and flat to down vs. last month. But BONES has a relatively small presence on the schedule. On average THE MENTALIST pulls better audiences than BONES, and it has pulled up its performance vs. last month, securing its place as the off-network-procedural-of-choice. While BONES ran just 10 times this September, THE MENTALIST ran 30 times, dominating Wednesday and Thursday nights.

As was the case last year, TNT hosted a CASTLE marathon following the new season premiere on ABC. Unlike last year, the program will continue to run regularly on TNT with daytime episodes slated to air each Wednesday from noon to 6PM and primetime episodes set for 8-11PM. In this first run, the show topped both THE MENTALIST and BONES on demo. TNT is not running the new 5th season episodes; it is running seasons one through four in chronological order.

Movies did well for TNT this month, particularly among men. Movies actually account for the greatest number of programming hours and GRPs on TNT’s line-up. Movies that helped push up the performance were Bourne Ultimatum, Bourne Supremacy and Gladiator.

LEVERAGE was the other high-profile program still running new episodes this September. Last month it was the 8PM anchor for Sunday nights, leading into FALLING SKIES, which was followed by THE GREAT ESCAPE. This month LEVERAGE’s new episode aired at 9PM, followed by a repeat of the same episode at 10PM, which led to mixed results. LEVERAGE’s premiere eps. lost audience vs. last month, until the finale where it jumped passed last month’s performance. Also, LEVERAGE encores topped THE GREAT ESCAPE’s premieres. Bottom-line, the night lost about 20% of its audience vs. last month, but gained about the same vs. last year.

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