USA Performance/Schedule Analysis - August 2008

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PERFORMANCE/SCHEDULE ANALYSIS
(Updated as of September 25, 2008)

TARGET DEMOGRAPHIC:

Adults 18-49 & Adults 25-54

AUGUST 2008 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE

TOP PRIMETIME SHOWS:

WWE, LAW & ORDER: CI (ORIG); BURN NOTICE, IN PLAIN SIGHT, MONK, PSYCH

SCHEDULING STRATEGIES:

USA is all about consistency. The network is extraordinarily consistent month-to-month and week-to-week, making it easy for viewers to, well...view. They know what to find and when to tune-in.

And what they'll find nearly half of the time is LAW & ORDER: SVU. This cable stalwart tends to dominate USA's schedule, stripped from 8-9PM Sunday - Friday, plus 9PM telecasts Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Three-hour stacks appear on occasion,

When SVU is not on the air, you can find WWE on Mondays and theatricals, or USA originals on the other nights. Originals tend to run on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays.

PROGRAM/SCHEDULE CHANGES:

JULY - AUGUST 2008:

USA has managed to shed its future prestigious, yet low-rated tennis and golf commitments, and this was the last week of US OPEN TENNIS coverage for the network. Full-time tennis coverage ran throughout primetime in the final week of August..

There were five new seasons of original dramas spread across three nights in August. BURN NOTICE (Thursday @ 10PM), MONK (Friday @ 9PM), PSYCH (Friday @ 10PM) to the line-up this month, joining LAW & ORDER: CI (Sunday @ 9PM) and IN PLAIN SIGHT (Sunday @ 10PM) continued to run this month, when they were not bumped by tennis.

In September, when many of the original series finish their runs, HOUSE steps in to primetime at 8:00PM, replacing the LAW & ORDER STRIP.


PREMIERES:

** None this  month

FINALES:
** August 17 @ 10PM: IN PLAIN SIGHT
** August 24 @ 9PM: LAW & ORDER: CI

SEPTEMBER AND BEYOND:

PREMIERES
:
** September 8 @ 8PM: HOUSE (OFF-FOX)
** October 10 @ 10PM: THE STARTER WIFE (10PM is the regular time-slot. The series debuts with a two hour          9-11PM special on the 10th)

FINALES:
** September 12 @ 9PM: MONK (September 5 - 100th episode)
** September 12 @ 10PM: PSYCH
** September 18 @ 10PM: BURN NOTICE

YEAR AGO/BIG PICTURE:

There was a lot going on in the TV landscape this month, causing us to dig a bit deeper to find out what was really happening with USA's audience in August. USA's Monday through Sunday primetime ratings are off between 10% and 20% versus last year, but it's not as simple as that. The Nielsen calendar and the US Tennis Open calendar don't match up; this year's USA US Open coverage was counted in August, while last year it was counted in September. While the tennis is prestigious, it does not pull in a lot of viewers for USA, and it unfairly skews year-to-year comparisons. So, the numbers aren't really down ten to twenty percent right?

Well, not so much. With the exception of BURN NOTICE, household ratings and shares are down for all the returning programs vs. 2007. But let's not forget the Olympics Effect. This year's high-rated Games pulled viewers away from other sources, particularly broad networks like USA.

Movies were off across the board, with household ratings down by ten percent, and demos down by 15% or more. MONK, and PSYCH were off more than 10% on households, and about -18% on demos, LAW & ORDER: SVU was off by a lesser degree (down about 5%).

On the bright side, WWE was down ten percent on household ratings, but its core men 18-49 audience was actually up by 1%. On Thursdays, BURN NOTICE improved household ratings by 22% vs. last year, and while it dropped some men, women were up by about 10%.

And Sunday nights (with new eps of LAW & ORDER CI (ORIG) and IN PLAIN SIGHT replacing last year's DEAD ZONE and THE 4400) improved household ratings by +44%. However, even that story can't be taken at face value. Male ratings are flat to down, and female ratings are up just +15%. So where is all the extra viewing coming from? Well, the median age is up +17% for the night.

Like we said, there was more going on than meets the eye.

AUGUST 2008 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

Again, USA's programming faced strong external factors - two weeks of the 2008 Summer Olympics on NBC and US Open Tennis on its own air for a full week of primetime. Compared to July, bottom line August ratings were down -12% on households and down between -13% and -16% on demo.

Happily for USA's August 2009 ratings, this is their last year of US Open coverage. But this year, numbers were off, as the final week of August was devoted to tennis. Ratings for regular USA programming are +300% higher than their US Open ratings.

Olympics coverage was the other noticeable influence on the numbers, and the two middle weeks of August took a decided dip. Movies and MONK fared the best in month-to-month comparisons, actually growing household ratings by +13% and +21% respectively. But some of USA's biggest movie titles, Pirates and National Treasure, did not perform as well as in past months.

Monday night's SVU and WWE were down by less than ten percent. WWE keeps its place as the top rated program among men and households.

Tuesday blocks of LAW & ORDER: SVU gave USA its only night of growth vs. last month, with 12% ratings increases for households and most demos, and 23% growth among men 25-54. But, it is still among the lowest rated nights of the week, along with Wednesday nights' mix of movies and SVU blocks and Saturday's movies, SVU and CI repeats.

BURN NOTICE, this month's second highest rated program, pulled up Thursday. LAW & ORDER: SVU and movies were the lead-ins.

On Fridays, USA's originals MONK and PSYCH ran back to back. While MONK was the winner on households, PSYCH was stronger on demo. But, in the face of Olympics opening ceremonies and games, MONK was actually the only program to show substantial gains vs. last month. It was up 21% on households and 10% or more on demo.

Sundays took the biggest fall vs. last month.  But it also had some of the best rated programming. LAW & ORDER: CI (ORIG) was the only program besides WWE to top a 3.0 HH rating. Both CI and IN PLAIN SIGHT finished up their seasons this month, and both are slated to return.

Not an easy month for USA, but the network held its own, continuing to put out some of the most watched programming on cable.

PROGRAM ACQUISITIONS:

After the movie premiered, USA picked up the cable rights to air The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian from Disney ABC Domestic TV for approx. $15million. The 4 and a half year contract for the movie begins September 2010.

But pre-buys are what's in fashion now, and USA Network is in the game with both Paramount and New Line. USA bought Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull before its theatrical release, plus the first three entries in the series. USA ran the previous three in the series -- Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), The Temple of Doom (1984) and The Last Crusade (1989) -- in May and June 2008, attracting big audiences.

The New Line TV deal includes ten movies, three of which are pre-buys (Sex and the City: The Movie, Semi-Pro and He's Just Not That Into You). The seven other movies are The Golden Compass, Rendition, Running Scared, El Cantante, Martian Child, The Number 23 and Shoot 'Em Up.

USA is scheduled to air The Golden Compass in July 2010, Semi-Pro in September 2010, Sex and the City: The Movie in January 2011 and He's Just Not That Into You in March 2011.

USA has also agreed with Disney-ABC Domestic TV for the rights to Oscar winner No Country For Old Men, Enchanted and National Treasure: Book of Secrets.

And for those keeping track, USA likes its sequels, with four Raiders, three Pirates of the Caribbeans, two National Treasures, one Ocean's and one Bourne on its increasingly deep bench.

Back in 2007 the net had already implemented a strategy of selective movie acquisitions, purchasing exclusive basic-cable rights to Disney's The Game Plan to start airing in 2009. Starring "The Rock," it is an obvious fit with USA's Monday night WWE RAW series.

In addition, they have purchased Underdog, My Boss' Daughter and Bad Company, all slated to air after 2010.

USA and SciFi signed a $20 million Lionsgate package that includes 3:10 to Yuma (Early 2010), Good Luck Chuck (2010), Employee of the Month (2010) and Jason Statham titles War (2010), Crank (2009) and Chaos (2009).

Other deals include New Line's Hairspray (the 2007 version) for a four-year window beginning in 2010. Also Ocean's 13 (a competitive move after Ocean's 11 kept popping on TNT), License to Wed and Blood Diamond, all from Warner.

PROGRAM RENEWALS:

IN PLAIN SIGHT: A second season has been ordered.

THE STARTER WIFE: After a successful run and many awards as a mini-series in Spring/Summer 2007, THE STARTER WIFE will become a 10-episode weekly USA series starting October 10, 2008. Produced by 3 Arts.

WWE RAW has received a multi-year renewal, keeping the top-rated series on USA through 2010.

PROGRAM CANCELLATIONS:

Maybe not technically a cancellation, but USA has taken a pass on US OPEN TENNIS. 2008 will be the last year tennis fans can find the opening week of the tournament on USA. Starting in 2009 it will be shared by ESPN and The Tennis Channel.

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