TNT Analysis



TNT's programming line-up has never been particularly cohesive, with live sports programming appealing to young men, off-net procedurals and original dramas appealing to older women and action movies, westerns and crime dramas skewing male. Still, it all hangs together under the “Drama” banner, and careful scheduling usually lets viewers know when to tune in for the programs they want to see.

TNT’s signature original series run Sunday through Wednesday, when they are running. 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) 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 typically benches its best shows, saving them for when they can stand out. The net is now aiming to schedule through-out most of the year in 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.


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




Monday 8-11pm




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Thursday 8-11pm




Friday 8-11pm




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MTWTFSS 8-11pm




Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

2012: TNT had a strong ratings year, helped in no small part by the return of the NBA in 2012. It was a transitional time as THE CLOSER, the program that launched TNT on its original programming path left the line-up, allowing the net to explore new territory. Unscripted, reality competition, serial drama and a mystery movie night were tested with mixed results, and more successes than failures.

DECEMBER 2012: Bottom-line ratings bounced around this month. Compared to last year, TNT’s bottom line household and women 25-54 audiences grew by just 3% even as men advanced by 86%. Compared to last month households and men grew by 14% while women grew by 25%.  Clearly the bottom line does not tell a clear story.

Monday nights were missing THE CLOSER and THE MENTALIST is filling the slot, trying to find its audience. Compared to last year the female skewing program lost 10% to 15% of its women viewers, but compared to last month ratings are flat for women 18-49 and up by 10% for women 25-54.

Tuesdays hosted new episodes of RIZZOLI & ISLES and LEVERAGE. RIZZOLI’s encore at 8 led into a new telecast at 9, and on average the program doubled audience vs. last month. However, it lost 30% of core women vs. last year’s performance, when it was benefiting from THE CLOSER as a lead-in and fewer encore telecasts. Premiere vs. premiere, RIZZOLI is holding its own. Its premiere episodes were the top five rated telecasts on households for the month, topping all the live NBA games.

In its five seasons LEVERAGE has been bounced around the TNT schedule, usually finding a home on Sunday nights in the summer, sometimes with companion original programming and sometimes sandwiched between movies. In the winter season it usually airs on Wednesdays. This month LEVERAGE aired at 10PM on Tuesdays, skewing more male than its RIZZOLI lead-in. Compared to last year’s performance, ratings for LEVERAGE were up across the board, increasing household ratings by 49%, adult 18-49 ratings by 14% and 25-54 ratings by 21%. However, the program has been on the cusp of cancellation for a couple of seasons now, and four days before its Christmas Day season finale, TNT pulled the plug. The series finale was the best-rated episode of the December run.

Wednesday nights are now home to CASTLE, with rights acquired from ABC, seasons 1-4 are running straight through in three hour stacks. This is the second month in a row of ratings improvements as audiences seem to be finding and sticking with the show. Compared to last month, ratings for core women 25-54 are up 40%. Compared to last year ratings for the night are up across the board, and up 53% among women 25-54.

Thursday nights, home once again to NBA on TNT, show a nice round 725% improvement among men 18-49.

Movie performance is not in the same league as NBA, but men also showed big improvements on Friday through Sunday, ranging from +21% to +68% vs. last year.  Top titles that helped to drive the growth included Lord of The Rings, Shooter, The Dark Knight, Four Christmases, Transformers and Sherlock Holmes.

2013: Looking ahead, TNT will continue to roll out new programming on new nights, expanding into documentaries in the medical and crime fields.