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 / February 2013 vs February 2012  (% Change)




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Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

FEBRUARY 2013: After laying low in January, TNT is back in the game this month. NBA ALL STAR WEEKEND coverage lasted just three days, but dominated the ratings. Bottom line primetime adult 25-54 ratings grew 4% vs. last year, with women growing 16% and men losing 2%. Compared to last month, men were up 34% while women were up 10%, netting adults 25-54 a 21% gain.

That said, the bottom-line does not speak to what is happening at TNT. Looking at TNT’s performance by demographic highlights how the network transitions between programming genres and target audiences across the week. With female skewing dramas, male skewing sports and dual appeal movies, the net has three distinct audiences. The reality docudramas the net is focusing on this year makes a fourth niche. So, let’s take a look at TNT niche by niche.

Mondays, Tuesdays and part of Wednesdays are home to both acquired and original dramas. After a solid stack of THE MENTALIST last month, Mondays were kicked into high gear once again this February. The month started off with the second season of DALLAS (on TNT). However, the soap was not able to generate the ratings of its summer debut (off by more than 50%). In the second week DALLAS dropped  another 25%, but then seemed to level out. TNT ran a couple of extra eps. on Friday nights, probably in a make-good attempt for advertisers. Even with the smaller audiences, the program is still a star on TNT’s line-up, drawing millions to TNTs air.

DALLAS also provided a big lead-in to the new hospital drama series, MONDAY MORNING, based on medical “mortality and morbidity meetings.” While DALLAS provides a big audience, it is also an audience that is tuned in for some fun, freewheeling, big living Texans. The transition to a serious medical drama is not seamless and the program lost nearly half of the DALLAS audience in its opening week. MONDAY MORNINGS did manage the impressive feat of holding and even growing its core female audience in the two successive weeks of the month. The women 25-54 ratings are about 10% better than THE MENTALIST but well behind CASTLE.

Last month CASTLE expanded its Wednesday night block to Tuesdays as well, moving to six runs per week. In mid-February it was bumped from Wednesday nights, and in turn it bumped THE MENTALIST out of the 8PM Monday slot. Considering the movement, the program continues to overperform, and lost less than 10% of core women viewers vs. January.

SOUTHLAND made a late return to the line-up this year, on a new night, Wednesdays. In both 2011 and 2012 it had already hit the air on Tuesday nights by January. It returned mid-February in 2013, and the two-episode average took a pretty severe ratings hit vs. last year, down by 30% on adults. Ratings did pick up for the second run, so perhaps it just needs audiences to find it again.

NBA was dominant this month as the annual ALL STAR WEEKEND fanfare came to TNT. The games helped to bolster the bottom-line, particularly with younger men.

Movies were the last component of the line-up. Usually there is something for everyone, but this month the male-skewing titles dominated. Batman Begins (#14) and The Dark Knight (#15) were the top-rated titles for men 18-49 and Bourne Ultimatum (#17) and Con Air (#24 )were the top-rated titles for women 25-54.

Despite the slow start, TNT plans to ramp up its original programming efforts through-out 2013, with a heavy emphasis on successfully breaking into the reality genre.