JUNE 2011 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:
* Bold denotes programming change
Sunday through Wednesday is TNT's primary focus, where the network has attempted to run original series throughout the year. BONES and (usually) LAW & ORDER have become a big part of the schedule, trying to hold up the Monday through Wednesday originals. 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.
JUNE 2011 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / June 2011 vs.June 2010 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
JUNE 2011: For TNT, June means that the NBA games are over and the serious business of summer programming begins. It was a busy month as the net launched two new series (FALLING SKIES and FRANKLIN & BASH), brought back four established dramas (MEMPHIS BEAT, HAWTHORNE, MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE and LEVERAGE), and began running an off-net crime drama (THE MENTALIST). Despite all of the activity, the bottom-line results were not great - TNT is at the lowest levels of the year, particularly on demos. While the net lost about 10% of its household audience, it lost about one-fourth of its core women compared to last year, when the schedule was not as aggressive.
Mondays began the week holding onto households and men, but losing women vs. last year when SAVING GRACE was the night's headliner. This year THE CLOSER is running at 10PM with sixth season repeats, but it is pulling in smaller audiences than its LAW & ORDER lead-in. This does not bode well for future syndication runs.
Tuesdays brought movies the first half of the month and the return of MEMPHIS BEAT and HAWTHORNE for the second half. Both of the original dramas lost a sizable chunk of their audience from last year's run. HAWTHORNE lost 40% of its adult 25-54 ratings vs. its second season debut, while MEMPHIS BEAT lost over 50% vs. its debut month last June. On the positive side, MEMPHIS BEAT retained all of its remaining women 25-54 audience into its second week.
Wednesdays were another night of originals as TNT introduced legal drama FRANKLIN & BASH and MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE. Both programs step slightly outside the mold, featuring more humor than the typical TNT brand of serious cop drama. FRANKLIN & BASH was near the top of TNT's program rankers, but everything is relative. Debut ratings were not as strong as previous debuts, falling well below RAISING THE BAR's debut, TNT's canceled legal drama which was also from Mark-Paul Gosselaar, or DARK BLUE, the canceled program that was running on Wednesday nights last July. But, it is not all about the premieres. FRANKLIN & BASH is one of those rare programs that actually gained momentum after its debut, particularly among men. In the last week of June the program delivered 15% better adult 25-54 ratings and was actually skewing male, despite the strong female skewing lead-in from THE MENTALIST. Unfortunately for the show, TNT orders up short seasons. With only 10 episodes in its first season, will FRANKLIN & BASH gather enough speed before it signs off? And if it does, will viewers remember the show when it comes back?
MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE was up next at 10PM. The program debuted in the winter, with THE CLOSER as a lead in. Ratings have been downhill from there. In its second season, TNT cut the winter run short and ran the second half of the second season this summer, attempting to find bigger audiences in the less competitive summer months. Unfortunately, audiences and MEN never came together. Despite numerous awards and accolades, the program continued to lose audience, and was officially canceled after its last episode aired.
At 8PM on Wednesday THE MENTALIST made its debut on TNT. BONES and to a lesser degree, LAW & ORDER, have been the backbone of the network, holding up originals and acting as placeholders in between runs of originals. Together they usually comprise the majority of the primetime weekday line-up. However, they have been showing some signs of aging lately, with older and smaller audiences. Relief from another syndicated series is definitely needed. However, in its first month out, THE MENTALIST ranked behind both LAW & ORDER and BONES on demos, drawing older female audiences.
Until BURN NOTICE's return in July, Thursday nights were filled with three-hour blocks of BONES. Although the program didn't grab headlines, and placed just a few telecasts in the top ratings rankers among core women 25-54, it slowly and steadily lead Thursday nights to the second-best rated night of the week for women and adults 25-54, with only Sunday nights topping it in the ratings.
On the weekends, movies dominated Friday and Saturday, with Transformers and Gran Torino leading the pack. But the headliner night was Sunday, with the long-awaited and much publicized debut of FALLING SKIES. The Stephen King produced sci-fi series had the best cable launch of the year, with 5.9 million viewers (TNT). The program also has a solid male skew (about 60% male), which ties in well with TNT's action-packed theatricals and lead-in program, LEVERAGE. LEVERAGE returned with its fourth season debut on June 26 with a 9% gain among men and a 22% loss among women vs. its June 2010 run.
Of note to the TNT line-up, and particularly Sunday nights, time shifted viewers add a sizable bump to the numbers, more than the 20% or so we have come to expect. With the increasingly competitive cable landscape, combined with the growth in DVR households, we can expect a growing and significant percentage of cable original programming audiences to be coming from timeshifted viewing.
CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:
This is perhaps TNT's most ambitious summer to date, but it is off to a slow start as numbers continue to slide. Part of the erosion has to do with timeshifting, but that is not the sole cause. While TNT lost 17% of its live adult 25-54 audience vs. last June, it lost 6% of live plus seven viewers. The numbers are still moving in the wrong direction.
June is just the beginning of the summer, and we see some good signs for future growth as series build their audiences. Unfortunately, TNT tends to order short seasons for its originals, and series that need momentum to build to acceptable heights are at high risk of running out of time.