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TBS Analysis


Monday night starts the week with a FAMILY GUY stack, and Tuesday is a straight stack of THE BIG BANG THEORY. The two programs mix it up on Wednesday and Thursday nights with FAMILY GUY leading into THE BIG BANG THEORY, which then leads into CONAN. Friday is the new Wednesday at TBS;  Tyler Perry programming and ARE WE THERE YET? bring women and African-American viewers to the network on Friday nights. The weekend is mostly about movies, with FAMILY GUY or THE BIG BANG THEORY occasionally acting as a lead in.


LIVE PRIMETIME RATINGS COMPARISON December 2011 vs. December 2010 (% Change)

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

DECEMBER 2011: Pop the champagne corks! TBS ended its worst year in recent history on an up note. December was TBS’ only month of 2011 to improve ratings over 2010, with respectable margins to boot. Total primetime men 18-49 ratings climbed by 16% while women 18-49 ratings climbed by 14%. TBS claimed it was the top rated cable net for two weeks in a row on the 18-34 demo. And December was the best-rated month for TBS outside of baseball playoff inflated October.

What finally turned things around? It’s easy to tell you what it wasn’t. It wasn’t FAMILY GUY. That program changed the face of TBS and made it a destination for young male audiences. But that was three years ago and a heavy load and a lot of syndication has worn out the program. The show is still getting 11 airings per week, and ratings are down by 29% from last year.

The ratings turnaround was not a result of the Wednesday to Friday relocation of the Tyler Perry programming either. A few years back, HOUSE OF PAYNE was the female prong in the success of TBS’ ability to draw 18-49 audiences. Big numbers of African American women flocked to TBS on Wednesday nights to watch, and the program expanded with MEET THE BROWNS, and last month’s debut of FOR BETTER OR WORSE. However, TBS moved the franchise to Friday nights, where it would not lead all those women into the male-skewing CONAN. Wednesdays were filled with the newest TBS acquisition, THE BIG BANG THEORY (more on that soon). At the end of the month, adult 18-34 ratings were up by 12% on Wednesday nights and down 36% on Friday nights compared to last year. Wednesday’s gains came entirely from men (+64%, women were down by 22%), while Friday nights were down for both men and women. The prophetically titled FOR BETTER OR WORSE dropped 38% of its debut audience from last month. In the end, the move hurt the bottom line and a fairly solid franchise.

The single biggest factor leading to the ratings recovery was the aforementioned THE BIG BANG THEORY. The program was acquired for a record-breaking amount of money to help TBS bring back the young male audiences that have been turning away. The program gets a heavy rotation with 14 primetime telecasts per week. Fortunately, the strategy is working. It is the highest rated regularly scheduled program on the net among both men and women 18-34. From November to December it grew 20% on adult 18-34 ratings, and that was after climbing 16% from October to November.

The other factor that helped TBS in December was a handful of successful specials, two long-running annual specials – 24 HOURS OF A CHRISTMAS STORY and THE WORLDS FUNNIEST COMMERCIALS were both ratings successes. 24 HOURS grew adult 18-49 ratings by 5% vs. last year and from 2009 before, while FUNNIEST COMMERCIALS grew 26% vs. last year and 11% vs. 2009. But both were topped by strong ratings from The Hangover. Together, these programs produced the highest rated programs of the month. The other special on the air this month was new to TBS, THE BEST OF CONAN SPECTACULAR. This special was at the bottom of the program rankers.

There are some promising programs in TBS’ development slate (SULLIVAN & COMPANY, THE WEDDING BAND), and THE BIG BANG THEORY is generating momentum. It looks like the focus is back on primetime. Hopefully it will be enough to bring the network back to where it was.