JULY 2010 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:
* Bold denotes programming change
Monday through Wednesday is TNT's primary focus, where the network has attempted to run original series throughout the year. With the June addition of back-to-back runs of LEVERAGE, Sunday night now features original programming as well. BONES has become a big part of the schedule, trying to hold up those Monday through Wednesday originals. This May LAW & ORDER was back, giving BONES some lead-in relief. NBA usually runs on Thursdays, when it's the season, otherwise it's an off-net crime drama and/or a movie. Theatricals dominate Friday through Sunday.
JUNE 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / June 2010 vs. June 2009 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
JULY 2010: TNT can celebrate a bit this month as RIZZOLI & ISLES proved to be the most watched original cable drama of the summer. The new detective program filled its billing as the perfect companion to THE CLOSER, giving TNT's signature series a much-needed boost, and leading the network to its best household ratings ever in a non-basketball month.
July is a big month for TNT...July 2009 was the previous record holder for the best household ratings. However, the news is not all good...an aging audience might become an issue...median age is at an all-time high, and as you can see above, demo ratings are actually down slightly from last year.
Most of what drives TNT is happening on Monday nights, courtesy of THE CLOSER and RIZZOLI & ISLES. Monday has the oldest audience, with a median age 8% higher than the total primetime average. Mondays are also where the most viewers are. While male delivery for Mondays is on par with all of primetime, core women 25-54 ratings are 58% higher.
While Monday is clearly the pace-setter, it is not the only night in play. HAWTHORNE and MEMPHIS BEAT drive Tuesday nights, the most competitive night on cable for the summer of 2010. HAWTHORNE delivers a younger audience, topping MEMPHIS BEAT on adults 18-49, while MEMPHIS BEAT wins on households and adults 25-54. Both lost about one-quarter of their ratings from their June premiere - an average audience drop-off, relatively speaking. Tuesday night's audience is relatively flat from last year, saved by the improved performance of MEMPHIS BEAT over last year's SAVING GRACE.
"Tuesday looks to be a strong night for TNT, anchored by two exceptional, engaging, character-driven dramas," said Michael Wright, executive vice president and head of programming for TNT, TBS and Turner Classic Movies. Despite this ringing endorsement, there has been no word of a renewal for either program yet, while LEVERAGE, THE CLOSER and RIZZOLI & ISLES have each received their pick-ups.
Wednesday nights were not filled with originals this month; audiences have to wait for August for that. Instead, this July was wall to wall LAW & ORDER, the classic cable white-noise program, which delivered the lowest rated night for adult audiences on TNT. Numbers were down significantly from last year when LEVERAGE and DARK BLUE were on the air.
Movies were not as important to the line-up this month as they have been in the past. Usually a fixture on the top-rated telecast list, the best performance for a movie on core demo women 25-54 was Shooter at #21.
While Wednesday nights were missing LEVERAGE, it did well on Sunday nights. Audiences for LEVERAGE were younger and more male than last year, undoubtedly due to the movie lead-ins, Compared to last year, premiere episodes of LEVERAGE's adult 18-49 ratings are up by 22% while 25-54 ratings are up by about 10%.
And last but not least was the SPRINT CUP RACING on TNT. We usually don't include sports events in our programming analysis, but this race was particularly noteworthy. On July 3rd TNT broadcast the first NASCAR race in 3-D. A stunt? Perhaps. But ratings were up 35% among core men 18-49. 3-D movies have already proven their box-office worth. Who will run the first 3-D program on TV? It can't be too far away.
CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:
Summer has become all-important to TNT and its signature series strategy, and it needed a breakout hit to spring from its line-up this year. Fortunately, RIZZOLI & ISLES looks like a winner, and will help keep TNT relevant and fresh.
TNT's strategy is to keep the subject-matter light, to use established shows to launch new fare and to keep the programming consistent in look, feel and content.
LIGHT SUBJECT MATTER: Michael Wright, executive vice president and head of programming for TBS, TNT and Turner Classic Movies (TCM) says, "The summer is about fun, so you want your TV to be entertaining and viewers want to have a good time, and I think this summer's shows reflect that."
USING ESTABLISHED SHOWS: "We have a lot of audience flow coming to the network, so your own programming is typically your best marketing platform," Wright said. "There's a lot out there and a lot to break through, but we have THE CLOSER to lead into RIZZOLI & ISLES and HAWTHORNE as lead-in to MEMPHIS BEAT, so the combination of strong marketing and great platforms is helpful." However, TNT sometimes feels like three different networks that bring in three different audiences...an older, female skewing drama network, a sports network that draws young men to the air, and a movie network that attracts adult audiences. This dissimilarity in programming genres and audiences goes against the cross-promotion aspirations of the network.
CONSISTENT LOOK AND FEEL: TNT's programming development strategy is sticking to a formula that works, with a signature feel. TNT's line-up is heavy on one-hour crime-solving programming in both its originals (THE CLOSER, RIZZOLI & ISLES, MEMPHIS BEAT, DARK BLUE, SOUTHLAND) and its off-net acquisitions (BONES, NUMB3RS, LAW & ORDER, CSI: NY).