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TNT Analysis - March 2011 - Broadcasting & Cable

TNT Analysis - March 2011

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MARCH 2011 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:

* Bold denotes programming change

SCHEDULING STRATEGIES:

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 those 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 through Sunday.

MARCH 2011 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / March 2011 vs. March 2010  (% Change)

HH

A18-49

A25-54

Monday 8-11pm

-12%

-9%

-15%

Tuesday 8-11pm

-1%

10%

4%

Wednesday 8-11pm

-14%

-24%

-19%

Thursday 8-11pm

62%

69%

59%

Friday 8-11pm

-15%

-15%

-14%

Saturday 8-11pm

1%

0%

4%

Sunday 8-11pm

-4%

-1%

2%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

0%

3%

3%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

MARCH 2011: TNT's bottom-line was up nicely vs. last year, but again it was all about basketball. With Turner acquiring rights to the NCAA tournament, March Madness has hit TNT, and will continue to do so through 2024. Three nights of NBA and four nights of NCAA Championships dominated viewers' attention this month, and was almost solely responsible for the year over year ratings gains. However, it was not enough to top last month's star performer, the annual NBA ALL STAR WEEKEND, and we saw average primetime ratings vs. February fall by about 20% on men and 10% on women.

Beyond basketball, TNT had just four other options for viewers this month: BONES, THE CLOSER (repeats), SOUTHLAND and movies.

BONES was the backbone of the schedule this month, as LAW & ORDER was off the primetime line-up again.  Twenty-three primetime telecasts makes BONES the most-played primetime program, with more airtime than NBA and NCAA combined. Ratings for the program are down about 10% vs. last month and off about 20% vs. last year. Even so, it is TNT's best bet for women 25-54 -- THE CLOSER drops some of those core viewers from its BONES lead-in.

In the bridge spring season, TNT has been switching back and forth between THE CLOSER and RIZZOLI & ILSES in the 10PM Monday night slot. This month THE CLOSER is re-running the sixth season, in anticipation of the seventh season premiere in July. Compared to RIZZOLI, THE CLOSER has a better re-run audience, topping the freshman program by 10% or so.

SOUTHLAND concluded its third season on March 8th, and according to TNT press, it  "averaged 2.9 million total viewers this season, a +6% rise over the previous season." According to Nielsen, the March performance was having demo difficulties vs. last year. Compared to March 2010, household ratings were down 8% while demo audiences were down by 25% or more. While SOUTHLAND remains the network's best rated program among younger men, its highest ratings demo is women 25-54. This demo shift occurred even with strong male-skewing movies as lead-ins. SOUTHLAND actually lost men from its testosterone-laden lead-ins Con Air and Payback, but gained women. Not that there's anything wrong with that, and TNT has renewed the program for a fourth season.

The last component of TNT primetime is acquired theatricals. 2008's Journey to the Center of the Earth was the stand-out movie this month, receiving the most airtime and the most total viewers. Gladiator,and The Mummy Returns were actually the top titles among men, while  Disturbia and  Pretty Woman drew young women.

TNT has made the marked decision to hold off on showcasing its star programming in the spring. The big guns will be rolled out through the summer months. And so for now, basketball is the only real game TNT has.

CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:

THE CLOSER, the program that launched TNT's successful string of originals, is ready to finish out its run, and TNT is ready to move on. The network is looking to broaden its scope with sci fi series FALLING SKIES, and a DALLAS next generation soap; not your typical TNT crime-drama procedurals. However, TNT is not staying too far from its core, More typical fare is coming with a CLOSER spin-off in the works, off-net series HAWAII FIVE-O acquired and the new Eric McCormack series PERCEPTION put to order.  What is the common theme? As Michael Wright, executive vp/head of programming at TNT, TBS and Turner Classic Movies put it, "great characters, intriguing stories, smart sense of humor and explosive action."

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