MARCH 2010 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:
* Bold denotes programming change
Original series dominate TruTV's primetime schedule. The only acquired program is COPS. Since most of their series provide a different take in the area of criminal law and justice, there are no thematic evenings distinct from one another, rather a relatively even distribution of original series. A heavy reliance on OPERATION REPO, comedic video clip properties, and a handful of other series dominate the schedule.
As new series are introduced to the schedule, the network created a few generic slots across the week for repeats. The additional exhibitions in short bursts of 2-4 weeks give their new titles a chance to gain recognition with the casual viewer. When a series does break out, like MOST SHOCKING, they have moved it into a regular timeslot.
With the transition of the network to TruTv at the beginning of 2008, the crime and investigation focus was replaced with a broader, non-fiction/reality mix of programs. While a small base of crime series continues, new programming explores topics as diverse as oil wildcatters, poolside waitresses in Las Vegas, and repo men.
MARCH 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison /March 2010 vs. March 2009 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
The network puts up a very solid March, improving on last year's numbers by 5% across most of the key demos. The strong delivery also rounds the 1st Quarter, one that was well ahead of the same three month time frame a year ago. In fact, the network's own press calls it their highest rated 1st Quarter ever for total adults and men 18-34 and 18-49. Pretty good.
Interestingly, the month to month numbers from February dipped just slightly, something we haven't seen in four years of tracking. Traditionally, the channel has started off strong in January, dropped in February during broadcast sweeps (and the Vancouver Olympics this year) and picked back up again in March. While audience levels are good, we didn't see that usual bounce from March. Not an issue at this point, but worth watching. April held steady in 2009. Let's see what happens this year before we declare anything a trend.
As with most months, let's start with OPERATION REPO. Powerhouse. Again. Pick a stat and you can usually find REPO at the time of the list on it. Number one series for total viewers by 10% or more. Number one series for men by roughly 20%. Anchors Monday, the number one night on the schedule. Repeats strong hour on Tuesday, driving the night well above net averages. Two Saturdays entirely devoted to repeat stacks lifted the night to the network averages, an amazing turnaround for the worst night on schedule just a year ago. Saturday was up 40-50% for men over that time period. Overall, total viewership for the series was up 14% from last year, and 5-10% on the two key male demos.
However, with all of that success comes a familiar caution. Overexposure and overdependence. OPERATION REPO ran 42 times in March or 21 hours of prime time. That's 25% of the entire schedule devoted to the series. We haven't seen significant erosion at this point, but even the best series wear down after a while. Which raises the second caution, overdependence. REPO has been so numerically dominant, only one other regular series garnered above average numbers. SMOKING GUN PRESENTS. The schedule needs some fresh faces if (and likely when) REPO slips from dominant to average.
Two of those new "fresh faces" were NFL FULL CONTACT and OVER THE LIMIT. Results were mixed. FULL CONTACT struggled to put it politely. Given the channel's biggest property as a lead-in, the aforementioned OPERATION REPO, it still managed to become the lowest rated series on the schedule. It did well enough to best two series in the key male demos (FORENSIC FILES and LAS VEGAS JAILHOUSE), but they have tended to skew female anyway.
OVER THE LIMIT debuted the last two Sundays in the 10pm slot. It came out of the gates well with well above average audiences that first week. Coming out of COPS, it increased the male delivery while losing some of the women. Net result was a younger delivery overall. Very good. Second week LIMIT appeared to mirror the COPS lead-in, this time dropping measurably for the 10:30 airing. Second week drops tend to be the norm so not to worry for now. We'll see what happens those first few weeks in April.
Looking to other series, SMOKING GUN was the schedule's other above average series. Three weeks of premieres meant slight increase in the male demos over last year. Scattered premieres for MOST SHOCKING and MOST DARING couldn't lift either property above the midpoint. LAS VEGAS JAILHOUSE, BAIT CAR, FULL THROTTLE SALOON, and COPS all ended up below average as well.
Long running FORENSIC FILES has relied on the strength of its female delivery to maintain a presence on the male dominated network. This month it was down 20% plus in women versus last year. The series was bumped on the last Friday of the month in favor of a stack of BAIT CAR repeats. As we would expect, male audiences were up over the prior three weeks, while the women held steady. Doubling the men and holding onto the women is a nice return. Much like we saw on Saturdays, we wouldn't be surprised if they shake up the night in an effort to find a few extra men out there.
CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:
The focus is on first-person access to real-life stories. Tagline says it all: Not Reality. Actuality. The network describes itself as the home of true real-life programming, not the manufactured reality found elsewhere on the dial.
Men are making up almost 55% of the 18-49 and 25-54 audiences. If you're pitching new concepts, targeting that younger male audience is advisable.
With fresh concepts like BLACK GOLD and SMOKING GUN taking to the air, mainstay series like FORENSIC FILES and others have been relegated to supporting roles. The household numbers aren't enough to keep them front and center anymore, as the network moves towards a demographic play. Humor, comic relief, and fast paced video clip based ideas are finding a home the last few months. Witness the success of SMOKING GUN and IT ONLY HURTS WHEN I LAUGH .