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TNT Analysis


TNT’s signature original series run Sunday through Wednesday. An ever-rotating mix of BONES, LAW & ORDER and THE MENTALIST are dominant on the schedule, leading into the originals, or airing as three-hour stacks.  Action dramas that can draw male viewers such as SOUTHALND and LEVERAGE have been getting movies as lead-ins. NBA runs on Thursdays, when it’s the season, otherwise it’s an off-net crime drama and/or a movie. Theatricals dominate Friday and Saturday, plus Sundays when originals are not running.

TNT’s high profile original series tend to run in the summer months and in December, when the broadcast nets are in hiatus or repeat mode. When the broadcast nets are in full swing, such as sweep months or the beginning of the new seasons, TNT benches its best shows, saving them for when they can shine. TBS, TNT and Turner Classic Movies executive vice president and head of programming Michael Wright recently reversed course in an interview with REEL SCREEN, claiming he is aiming to schedule through-out most of the year by 2013.  The net is planning to do this with a bigger and more well-rounded slate of programming that features reality, competition and maybe even docu-soaps in addition to the usual dramatic scripted fare. The action-adventure reality competitions and crime and investigation formats TNT is going for can be nicely scheduled to complement TNT’s movies and crime dramas.


Live + Same Day Primetime Ratings Comparison / June 2012 vs June 2011  (% Change)

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

JUNE 2012: Put this month down as one for the books for TNT. The net started the summer season with 5 NBA conference finals games, the most-watched cable premiere of the year with DALLAS, the summer’s #1 returning scripted series on cable with RIZZOLI & ISLES averaging 7.1 million viewers, and the solid return of FALLING SKIES, averaging 4.5 million viewers (assorted TNT press releases). DALLAS and RIZZOLI & ISLES were renewed for another season before the fourth of July.

At the end of the month TNT’s ratings were pacing 40%+ ahead of last year on households, adults 18-49 and adults 25-54. Among the CableU 30 nets, only History Channel with its astonishing HATFIELDS & MCCOYS was able to top TNT’s growth.

But, not every story was a success story. On Mondays THE MENTALIST is in place until THE CLOSER returns. The off-net show might be holding the space, but not its audience as it dropped 7% of core women 25-54 vs. last year and more on other demos.

Tuesday nights brought RIZZOLI & ISLES in its third season and FRANKLIN & BASH in its second season, a new night for both.  FRANKLIN got a strong female lead-in from RIZZOLI, which explains its 6% jump on women 25-54 vs. last year. Male ratings were down by 10%, but the show retained its male skew, and it was still topping the new episodes of RIZZOLI on men (and the 8PM encore episodes of RIZZOLI on all demos.)

Wednesday brought the long-awaited return of DALLAS, this year’s top-rated new basic cable program to date. It was a given that the premier would draw large audiences, but it looks like they are holding….and TNT gave its vote of confidence with an early renewal notice for an extended second season. The huge audience of DALLAS is fed into another run of THE MENTALIST at 10PM…and you could almost hear the clickers working as over 1.3 million adults 25-54 turned elsewhere. TNT is on record that they are looking for a companion docu-soap. The sooner the better.

Thursdays were filled with two more telecasts of THE MENTALIST followed by the lowest rated program on the line-up, CSI:NY. Movies on Friday and Saturday met with mixed success. Top performing titles were Sherlock Holmes, Shooter and the Book of Eli.

FALLING SKIES, last year’s top-rated new basic cable program premiered on Sunday. Given negative press for dropping audience vs. last year, the program actually outperformed the premier of RIZZOLI on adults 25-54. At the end of the month it was topping last year’s female ratings.

THE GREAT ESCAPE premiered on Sunday 6/24 at 10PM to relatively low ratings. TNT’s entrée into reality / game show programming came with big names (Ron Howard and Brian Grazer producing with AMAZING RACE masterminds Bertram van Munster and Elise Doganieri) and a solid premise: each week three teams are locked in a prison, and the first team to escape wins a big cash prize ($100,000). But something in the chemistry was lacking, and audiences did not flock to the first episode. Which is somewhat alarming as TNT has big plans for the genre. Next year it plans to air the action-adventure competition series 72 HOURS and unscripted cop show Boston Blue from executive producer Donnie Wahlberg. There are reports of additional shows in the pipeline. In an interview with REAL SCREEN, network president Michael Wright justifies “It’s a new form for us. We’re not placing the same expectations on our unscripted efforts as we are on our scripted efforts. We have a track record in scripted programming. For our initial unscripted programming we’re going to give the shows time to grow and for the audience to begin to associate both TNT and TBS with that kind of storytelling.”

The action-adventure reality competitions and crime and investigation formats can be nicely scheduled to complement TNT’s movies and crime dramas, if viewers tune in.

With Monday night ready to roll out THE CLOSER, it looks like TNT has a strong summer in place, but with the Olympics looming and the long tail of cable nipping at its heels, it won’t be easy to hang onto fickle audiences.