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TNT Analysis - November 2009



This summer it was all about original scripted dramas on TNT. New episodes ran Monday through Wednesday, as is the plan for 2010. But  the network is choosing not to air any new episodes in the fall, when it would go head to head against the broadcast nets' new seasons.. Repeats of scripted originals run at 9 and/or 10 Monday through Wednesday with movies or off-net crime dramas working as the lead-in. NBA usually runs on Thursdays, when it's the season, otherwise it's an off-net crime drama (CSI:NY) and a movie. Blockbuster theatricals dominate Friday through Sunday.


Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / November 2009 vs. November 2008  (% Change)

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

After one of the worst performing months in recent history, TNT rebounded this November, pulling demo ratings back up by more than 35%. But it wasn't a complete recovery. With NBA in the picture, male ratings are better than they've been since April, and are up very slightly over last year. But, without new scripted originals on the air, household and female ratings are not where they were.

NBA was the biggest player when it came to increasing male numbers this month, but it wasn't the only game in town.  BONES has basically replaced LAW & ORDER as the network's go-to program, with 31 primetime telecasts this month. It was the only program to place telecasts in the HH top 5 list this November, topping THE CLOSER on that list, and on average demo ratings. Compared to last year, BONES' household ratings are even on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, but demos, particularly male demos, have increased significantly.  In fact, demos are the best story for BONES. It skews female, but has a much younger and more even male/female audience than LAW & ORDER or THE CLOSER.

November marked the third month in a row of back to back CLOSER repeats at 9 and 10PM on Monday nights. While the program did pick up some of the female audience it lost last month, Brenda looks like she could use a break. Compared to the 8PM BONES lead-in, THE CLOSER is about even on household ratings, but it drops a good chunk of the demo audiences. On the last Monday of the month, TNT scheduled BONES at 10PM, and the demo audiences actually went back up. (Note: Monday nights last year included new episodes of RAISING THE BAR, partially contributing to the poor year-over-year Monday night performance).

On the weekend (Friday - Sunday), movies recovered from last month's lows, but ratings took some big hits vs. last year.  In fact, movies were the biggest factor pulling down numbers vs. last year. Sunday night, usually a strong night on TNT, saw the worst declines of the week.

It's been a tough fall for TNT. December brings a new original to the air (MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE) and some much-needed new episodes of THE CLOSER, plus all the usual TNT holiday fare. Hopefully it is enough to jump-start a successful 2010.


Strategic Opportunities:

A December 6 article in The New York Times recognized TNT as a cable network that has become a platform for heroines who prefer to keep their feelings to themselves. TNT has become a kind of sanctuary where older performers can safely play against type.

TNT knows drama, whether it be hit off-net series, big-time original series, Hollywood movies, or NBA basketball.  TNT is a cross between a broadcast network, a pay movie service and a premiere NBA channel.

TNT has an appetite, and a strong need for new breakout original drama series that they can call their own. They are on record as looking for personal drama without the edge of FX or HBO, a statement made with an eye toward the syndication window.

But TNT seems to want to do it on their own, or else get the help of some big names - Redford, Bocchco, Bruckheimer - you get the idea. With the acclaim garnered from GRACE and THE CLOSER, they have cachet among Hollywood's top talent, making TNT tough territory for anything but studio projects.  Even with their entree into docs, reality and non-fiction, they prefer top name talent. TNT wants to be thought of as a broadcast network, as illustrated by their upfront presentation showmanship.

"Cable has taken the measure of broadcast TV in sports, news and theatrical movies, and now we're ready to knock down the last bastion of broadcast dominance: weekly TV series," said Steve Koonin, president of the Turner Entertainment Networks. (Hollywood Reporter)

TNT has announced another lengthy development slate this upfront season that is heavy on big name Hollywood talent and crime dramas, with a couple of feel-good reality programs sprinkled in. "With these new projects, TNT continues to focus on great storytellers," said Michael Wright, executive vice president, head of programming "The central characters come from different worlds of crime, law and medicine but they share essential, everyman qualities. They're all everyday heroes on a personal journey the viewer can relate to and care deeply about."

So far this broadcast season, we have seen off-network crime dramas become a big part of TNT's strategy, with BONES, NUMB3RS, CSI: NY, SOUTHLAND, THE MENTALIST and FORENSIC FILES all slated for TNT primetime.