TNT Analysis

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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 and westerns 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.  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 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, including the broadcast networks' peak seasons.

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 neatly scheduled to complement TNT’s movies and crime dramas.


Live + Same Day Primetime Ratings Comparison / January 2013 vs January 2012  (% Change)




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Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

JANUARY 2013: TNT has been touting its ramped up slate of originals scheduled for a winter launch. The network has public plans to move out of the protective harbor of the less competitive holiday and summer months. The return of DALLAS and SOUTHLAND, the launch of BOSTON’S FINEST and MONDAY MONINGS, plus greenlights for 72 HOURS, COLD JUSTICE (WT), THE HERO, MARSHAL LAW: TEXAS (WT), SAVE OUR BUSINESS (WT) and more have all received lots of press, but no January starts. Not one TNT original aired in January. Instead, this month’s line-up was filled with off-net acquisitions, theatricals and NBA games. Last year the January line-up featured new episodes of RIZZOLI & ISLES, LEVERAGE, SOUTHLAND and THE CLOSER. The result, as you would expect, is a significant loss in audience. Compared to last year, the bottom line ratings dropped 10% of households, 22% of adults 18-49 and 14% of adults 25-54. Losses were more steep for men than for women.

TNT took losses from the previous month as well, although losses were not as severe, coming in closer to 10% across the board.

THE MENTALIST has been tasked with holding up Monday nights, the slot that once hosted behemoth ratings grabber, THE CLOSER. Ratings for the program are lagging the network average, and it has faded from last year’s performance when it had more help on the line-up. On the positive side, it has improved by 16% on core women 25-54 since December, so things could pick up, particularly if it gets a companion program.

Three-hour blocks of off-net acquisition CASTLE took over on Wednesday nights this fall, and ratings have been slowly and steadily improving. The night is delivering above average with target female demos. In January CASTLE was expanded to another night, and ran in three-hour blocks on Tuesdays as well. Ratings for the two nights were virtually identical. If TNT is looking for a new home for CASTLE, it looks like Tuesdays will work as well as Wednesdays.

Thursday nights are primarily home to NBA on TNT. With the big spike in ratings the NBA brings to TNT, the network’s bottom-line can live or die with the popularity (or lock-outs) of professional basketball. This season it looks like interest in NBA is waning, and TNT’s men 18-49 ratings are down 18% for live games and 59% for the pre-game show vs. last year. It’s relatively early in the season though…still time for things to pick up before play-offs.

The Screen Actors Guild Awards presentation aired live on TNT (and TBS) again this year. The net was pleased with the performance and bought another three years of rights.

Movies were the last component in TNT’s line-up this January. Many of the featured titles were running last year as well. 2 Fast 2 Furious, Bourne Ultimatum, Gran Torino, Law Abiding Citizen, Rush Hour 3, and Shooter each ran in January 2012 and 2013. There were some new titles this year (The Book of Eli, Terminator Salvation, Inglorious Bastards) which helped the average for “TNT BIG PICTURE MOVIES” grow by 7% among adults 18-49.

As TNT ran more of the same this January, competitors such as FX and USA started the new year with original series in place. There is a long slate of programming ready to premiere...can TNT catch up?