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TBS Analysis


Monday night starts the week with a FAMILY GUY stack, and Tuesday follows with a 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. Friday through Sunday were all about movies on TBS for years, but now Tyler Perry programming brings women and African-American viewers to the network on Fridays, after getting the boot from its long-standing home on Wednesday nights. THE BIG BANG THEORY has staked a claim to yet another night – Saturday – where it runs from 8PM to 10PM each week.


LIVE PRIMETIME RATINGS COMPARISON March 2012 vs. March 2011 (% Change)

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

MARCH 2012:  TBS scored its best non-baseball numbers in four years this March, pulling primetime adult 18-49 ratings up by 26% vs. last year. Numbers were up vs. last month as well, showing 13% improvement vs. February. Further proof of TBS’ recent success came when the network won the basic cable ratings crown on adults 18-34 and 18-49 for the quarter. So what is driving TBS’ newfound success? Well, it isn’t original programming.

Off-net series THE BIG BANG THEORY led TBS to first place in the ratings race. As Bill Carter said in The New York Times, “TBS has found the formula for cable television success. Buy repeats. Then repeat.”

THE BIG BANG THEORY has proven to be just what the ratings doctor ordered for TBS. After FAMILY GUY ratings hit the wall, the network followed suit, and was not able to recover until THE BIG BANG THEORY started up in fourth quarter 2011. The program has revitalized TBS’ primetime ratings, and has also helped out CONAN in latenight. The higher the ratings grow, the more airtime the program gets. This month it averaged 13 telecasts a week, which works out to more than one-fourth of the available primetime inventory.  TBS s maximizing the program, and so far audiences can’t get enough. The only thing standing in the way of it attaining all 25 of the top 25 top-rated adult 18-49 telecasts this March was NCAA Basketball Championships. And it still managed to place three telecasts ahead of the two top-rated match-ups (KC V NC and MARQUETTE V FLORIDA).

NCAA Championship games aired on six different nights, about the same as last year. There was some other programming running on TBS this month as well. With basketball lightening their weekend load, theatricals were strong. Best performers were additional runs of The Hangover (premiered on TBS last month) and Shrek 2 and 3.

FAMILY GUY is still running straight through from 8 to 11 on Monday nights. In a sign of the program’s weakened state, Monday nights used to be TBS’ best rated with FAMILY GUY at the helm, now Mondays are the lowest rated night of the week.

HOUSE OF PAYNE is in repeats, in its new night on Fridays. As expected, ratings are down vs. last year, and the program pulled the lowest ratings of the month. Despite appearances, TBS hasn’t given up on the Tyler Perry block of programming yet. FOR BETTER OR WORSE got an order for 35 additional episodes that are slated to air on Friday nights this summer. (The series is produced by Tyler Perry Studios and is distributed by Debmar-Mercury.)

On the horizon, it looks like TBS will try to use THE BIG BANG THEORY as a springboard for its own original programming. There are three multi-camera buddy sitcoms set to debut this season that are undoubtedly hoping for a ratings lift from BIG BANG. In addition, unscripted competition series KING OF THE NERDS just got the greenlight from TBS and is slated to air early next year. Michael Wright, executive VP, head of programming for TBS, TNT and Turner Classic Movies says "KING OF THE NERDS is a lot of fun as it not only celebrates nerd culture, but also illuminates it. We believe King of the Nerds is an ideal fit with The Big Bang Theory, and we look forward to having it on the network."

This strategy was employed by TBS before. (Remember NEIGHBORS FROM HELL, the animated companion for FAMILY GUY, or GLORY DAZE, the frat comedy paired with THE OFFICE?) Can THE BIG BANG THEORY succeed where others have failed? TBS certainly has momentum behind it, and comedy is hot right now. Will the stars align to give TBS some hits it can call its own?