USA's line-up is one of the most watchable in cable, designed to make it easy for viewers to know when to tune in and what to expect.
WWE dominates Monday nights and took over all three primetime hours in July of 2012. Off network dramas comprise the white noise that holds the network together with strips and three-hour primetime blocks. The network acquisitions bring in a steady audience flow and a lot of live viewing that is used to help build original franchises. NCIS and LAW & ORDER: SVU typically fill that role. Movies play a lesser role, occasionally filling programming holes and holiday-themed nights and weekends.
Original one-hour dramas are starting to saturate the line-up. In the busy summer season five nights were in play, and USA has experimented with running series straight through instead of splitting them up into summer and winter seasons. Original programming is running nearly all year long now. " We are now a four-quarter network, even though our dominance is in the summer. We don’t want to be beholden to a 52-week schedule, but it’s about having something on always to keep us in the audience’s mind," (Jeff Wachtel in MultiChannel News).
USA’s long-talked about jump into reality and comedy began this year, and scheduling for the new programming genres will undoubtedly stir up the extraordinarily consistent strategies of recent years. Original programming is also leaking out of primetime into late night, as USA turns its eye to a new time-period.
MARCH 2013 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live + Same Day Primetime Ratings Comparison / March 2013 vs. March 2012 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
MARCH 2013: March is generally a good month for USA, and 2013 was no exception. Bottom-line ratings basically held vs. last March’s peaks, with men 18-49 growing 5% year-over-year. Compared to last month average primetime ratings improved between 5% and 7%.
Changes to the line-up were subtle, with 10PM originals coming and going. Monday night’s wrestling still tops the week on both male and female ratings. The franchise is solid, with minor ratings movement vs. both last month and last year.
Tuesdays said good-bye to WHITE COLLAR mid-month, trading the original series for more LAW & ORDER: SVU, and consequently, more women and less men. Wednesday nights got PSYCH at 10PM, in what is rumored to be the last season of the popular program. Last month NECESSARY ROUGHNESS was airing in the timeslot, with lower ratings. PSYCH showed an impressive 35% improvement on household ratings, 84% improvement on men 18-49, and 37% improvement on adults 25-54 vs. NECESSARY ROUGHNESS.
Movies played a lesser role this month than last, when they were featured as part of the Characters Unite campaign. This March there were just three titles airing in primetime (GI Joe, Fast & Furious and Gone in 60 Seconds), and average ratings were significantly lower.
Despite the high profile and big ratings generated by original dramas, USA remains dependent upon its long-running acquired procedurals, LAW & ORDER: SVU and NCIS. The two programs are often overlooked, but never by viewers; they are USA’s workhorses. With 77 hours of primetime air this month, they account for nearly three-quarters of the schedule. Ratings continue to perform, basically holding vs. last year and showing solid improvement vs. last month. In fact, NCIS grew by 30% on 18-49 demos and by 20% on 25-54 demos vs. last month.
As USA slips into spring it will continue to roll out original programming, making the long-discussed jump into reality and comedy.