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 / March 2013 vs March 2012  (% Change)




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MTWTFSS 8-11pm




Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

MARCH 2013: Coming off February’s ALL STAR WEEKEND, March Madness hit TNT this month, pre-empting scheduling and spiking audiences. However, the marquee original programming nights remained untouched by basketball, and overall TNT racked up another successful month.

Mondays featured off-net acquisition CASTLE, the second season of DALLAS and MONDAY MORNINGS, TNT’s new medical drama show from David Kelly. As noted last month, MONDAY MORNINGS carries a weighty premise (literally focused on morbidity and mortality meetings on Monday mornings…can it get any darker?), and that premise doesn’t exactly fit with the fun-loving, high-living citizens of lead-in DALLAS. But, audience continued to build and as the season progressed, ratings improved, by an impressive 35% among core women 25-54. This month it was easily topping the 8PM CASTLE encore, last month it was not. Last month it was holding half of the DALLAS lead-in, this month it is holding about 60%. There is no male audience, but women 25-54 numbers do top CASTLE’s average, and easily outpace SOUTHLAND and BOSTON’S FINEST. Is it enough for a renewal?

Meanwhile, DALLAS saw the burial of JR this month. Ratings peaked the week of JR’s funeral, and after that the numbers dropped below previous levels. Still, the average monthly program ratings gained 27% among women 25-54 vs. last month. With the large fan base and iconic characters, a renewal is certainly on the horizon.

CASTLE was bumped around the schedule again this month. It was gone from Wednesdays to make room for TNT originals there, and its Tuesday run was interrupted by NBA for two weeks. Average women ratings were off by about 10%, which is respectable considering the disruption.

On Wednesdays TNT shifts its focus toward male programming with a movie, new show BOSTON’S FINEST and SOUTHLAND. BOSTON’S FINEST is a docu-reality show from Danny Wahlberg that feels like a scripted police procedural. Despite strong reviews and a seemingly perfect fit for TNT, ratings were sluggish out of the gate. On the bright side there was no drop-off in the second week, indicating there is room to build. The five-week average put the show towards the bottom of the rankers. SOUTHLAND was a mixed story this month. It grew by 18% on men 25-54 ratings vs. last month’s slow start, but was off by 20% vs. last year. It looks like Wednesday nights need more time before they can be declared a success.

Basketball dominated the rest of the week. Some movies were squeezed in between buzzers. Gran Torino was the top performing theatrical among adults 18-49 in 23rd place, and Dark Knight topped adults 25-54 with an 18th place ranking. Overall movies underperformed both last year and last month.

When basketball season ends it will be time for TNT to kick into summer mode. The net plans to come out swinging, with new and returning series in the mix. THE HERO, 72 HOURS, FALLING SKIES, MAJOR CRIMES, RIZZOLI & ISLES and PERCEPTION are all ready to roll.