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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, which is in place at the end of the stack to give CONAN or original programming the biggest lead-in possible. Tyler Perry programming brings women and African-American viewers to the network on Fridays. THE BIG BANG THEORY has staked a claim to yet another night – Saturday – where it runs from 8PM to 10PM each week. Original hour-long comedies were given a run on Thursday nights this summer, and WEDDING BAND aired on Saturday nights at 10PM. However, the net has gone back to a half-hour strategy for its comedies. Reality, competition and unscripted series are starting to roll out.

In 2013 premiere nights for new shows are Tuesdays and Thursdays, helped by the sizable audience of THE BIG BANG THEORY.


LIVE + SAME DAY PRIMETIME RATINGS COMPARISON January 2013 vs. January 2012 (% Change)

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

JANUARY 2013: The TBS schedule went without change for over a year before THE BIG BANG THEORY started up in 2011, and then it barely changed again for another nine months. But at the beginning of the new year, things are  to get interesting again at TBS.

Within the last six weeks the network confirmed a long slate of greenlit pilots and scheduled launches. Competition shows (BAD ASS GAME SHOW, 2014; WHO GETS THE LAST LAUGH, April; TRUST ME I’M A GAME SHOW HOST, 2013), a sitcom (DO IT YOURSELF, pilot ordered) and a hidden camera show (DEAL WITH IT, 2013) were all confirmed. And that’s in addition to this month’s launch of new game show KING OF THE NERDS, COUGAR TOWN’s start on TBS, the acquisition of syndicated RULES OF ENGAGEMENT, AND the cancellation of the original hour-long comedy WEDDING BAND, which finished its first (and last season) this month.

That is a lot of programming and a lot of new territory for TBS. But despite all the changes that have already begun, TBS’ bottom-line primetime average remained virtually unchanged versus last month, and took only a couple of minor bumps versus last year. BIG BANG THEORY, and to a lesser degree, FAMILY GUY remain the key components of the line-up. Airing about 19 and 9 episodes per week, they support most nights and are the crux of the schedule. Both programs are ratings leaders, showing small (less than 10%) improvements vs. last month and holding vs. last year. Their ratings and scheduling dominance makes it hard for new programs to impact the bottom line average.

THE BIG BANG THEORY was used to help launch COUGAR TOWN this month. The program with the loyal but small fan base was cancelled by ABC and picked up by TBS. It was given the 10PM Tuesday night timeslot, sandwiched between two episodes of THE BIG BANG THEORY. It was not a break-out hit, but there were many positive signs. In its first three outings, COUGAR TOWN could not hold up to its BANG lead in, or match the audience BANG was delivering in the time slot. Premiere night ratings were slightly below the summer’s MEN AT WORK premiere (1.3 million adults 18-49 for COUGAR, 1.6 for MEN). The two subsequent eps did a good job of holding audience, particularly among core women.

The one-hour reality competition KING OF THE NERDS is the first in a line of unscripted shows set to run on TBS this year. It debuted on Thursday the 17th at 10PM amidst a competitive cable field, going up against the Lance Armstrong / Oprah interview, the return of SUITS on USA and ANGER MANAGEMENT and ARCHER on FX, plus MTV’s BUCKWILD. NERDS drew 1.2 million adults 18-49, slightly below COUGAR TOWN. And like COUGAR TOWN, NERDS dropped audience from lead-in BANG.

Friday’s line-up of Tyler Perry sitcoms continues to fade, dropping 40% of women 18-49 from last year and 11% from last month. Tyler Perry programming will be launching on OWN next year…no word from TBS on what they plan to do with their Friday nights.

It was a long cycle from concept to launch of WEDDING BAND, one of the hour-long sitcoms TBS developed last year. When it did debut it was in the tough Saturday night timeperiod. While the program did occasionally top its time slot among ad-supported cable programs, it never really caught on, and was cancelled at the end of its first season. TBS has announced it is no longer interested in hour-long scripted comedies.

Rights to the syndicated series RULES OF ENGAGEMENT were purchased in December, and the program hit the air this January. Contrary to speculation, it was not used as a companion to THE BIG BANG THEORY.  It is running at 11AM on weekdays.

Looking forward, it will be hard for the new programs to make an impact on bottom-line ratings. What they can do is boost the image of TBS as a successful producer of original programming.