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TruTV Analysis - August 2011


* Bold denotes programming change


Original series dominate TruTV's primetime schedule.  The only acquired program is COPS.  There are no thematic evenings distinct from one another, rather a relatively even distribution of original series.  A heavy reliance on OPERATION REPO, comedic video clip properties, and a handful of other series dominate the schedule.

As new series are introduced to the schedule, the network created a few generic slots across the week for repeats.  The additional exhibitions in short bursts of 2-4 weeks give their new titles a chance to gain recognition with the casual viewer.  When a series does break out, like OPERATION REPO, they have moved it into a regular timeslot.

With the transition of the network to TruTv at the beginning of 2008, the crime and investigation focus was replaced with a broader, non-fiction/reality mix of programs.  While a small base of crime series continues, new programming explores topics as diverse as oil wildcatters, poolside waitresses in Las Vegas, and repo men.


Live Primetime Ratings Comparison August 2011 vs. August 2010 (% Change)

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

Since truTV’s rebranding from Court TV in 2008, the network has enjoyed a surge of youthful popularity.  This August capped the network’s strongest summer yet, continuing truTV’s positive trend.

While year-to-year numbers were down, TruTV did very respectably this past August.  Specifically, the month-to-month was up most nights of the week among the coveted 18-49 male demo.

Amid truTV’s triumphs, the biggest success story continues to be the unparalleled HARDCORE PAWN.  While PAWN was not the highest ranked program of the month, it did post very solid numbers.  Tuesday nights – which aired marathon runs of PAWN – earned the highest ratings among truTV’s central 25-54 demo.

Young show LIZARD LICK TOWING made its long awaited return, continuing its first season after a half-year hiatus.  TOWING was the network’s top program and also owned the top single telecast for the month.  It appears that absence does make the heart grow fonder – TOWING’s return episode did significantly better than the season premiere and edged out the preceding episode.  All told, the episode garnered the best ratings ever for the show and especially clicked with men aged 18-49.

BEAR SWAMP RECOVERY debuted to impressive numbers – earning a spot among ad-supported cable’s Top 5 entertainment programs in the timeslot with men 18-34 and 18-49.

Now eight seasons in, OPERATION REPO continues to impress.  REPO, along with new hit SOUTH BEACH TOW, helped elevate Wednesdays as the highest rated night for the network.

Mondays ranked as one of the weaker nights for the network – ALL WORKED UP and WORLD’S DUMBEST failed to capture much of an audience.  WORLD’S DUMBEST, like clip show TOP 20 MOST SHOCKING doesn’t hold the same appeal as truTV’s myriad blue-collar reality shows.

Similarly, clip show IT ONLY HURTS WHEN I LAUGH was at the very bottom of the barrel – further affirming that the genre is simply less appealing than gritty reality like PAWN, REPO, and TOWING.

COPS, BAIT CAR, and VEGAS STRIP all fell somewhere in the middle of the pack in their Sunday night slot.


The focus is on first-person access to real-life stories.  Tagline says it all: Not Reality.  Actuality.  The network describes itself as the home of true real-life programming, not the manufactured reality found elsewhere on the dial.

The following information comes directly from the network:

truTV’s programming can be characterized by “The Four C’s”:

•            Characters—We're all about outrageous people with unique and exciting jobs, families, and lives. The more surprising and unexpected the better. We want likeable characters that we can develop into widely recognizable faces for the network. Qualities to keep in mind are: visually arresting, loud, raw, quick with a retort, full of funny sayings, and tough but fair.

•            Conflict—Our viewers love the thrill and suspense of watching confrontations. We want shows filled with situations that are driven by interpersonal conflict, particularly conflict with an authority figure, and we want to identify other areas outside of law enforcement where that dynamic can be captured (good examples would be the agents in Operation Repo and the hotel staff at Rehab: Party at the Hard Rock).

•            Comic Relief—Our programs reveal the humor in everyday, real-life situations. Many of our shows poke fun at outrageous personalities caught in unbelievable circumstances.

•            Consequences—Our viewers come to us for storylines that are filled with risk and escalating suspense. Whether it’s an intensely personal mission like Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura, or the threat of real danger on the job like Southern Fried Stings, our characters have something on the line and the stakes are always high.

What Are We Looking For Now?

•            More ideas that are “out there” – nothing’s off limits as we continue to look for high-profile, high-concept shows (particularly those with unpredictable or unexpected outcomes) that will define the brand, and continue to push viewers’ expectations of the types of programming they will find on truTV.

•            Companion series to Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura that feature driven characters on challenging real-life missions that are filled with conflict.

•            Concepts that feature people getting into good, clean trouble, particularly at big parties or events like in our show Rehab: Party at the Hard Rock.

•            Programs that are set in or feature personalities from the world of sports that we can air around March Madness, which is coming to truTV in March 2011.

•            Shows with surprise story twists and interesting reactions caught on tape, like our series Bait Car.

•            Archetypal, identifiable characters featured in concepts that highlight interesting aspects of American culture (rural, urban, etc.)

We do not want traditional crime and justice shows, programs that tell past-tense stories with heavy recreation, or overly contrived formats.

As a result of all the attention garnered from the broadcast of NCAA championship games, truTV has recently signed on a total of eight new unscripted shows.  As its viewership expands, truTV continues to pick up new programming it feels will mesh with its audience.  It should come as now surprise, then, that more repo shows are slated to air in the near future. The upcoming titles include: SOUTH BEACH TOW, BEAR SWAM RECOVERY, HOLLYWOOD TAXI, WIPEOUT, MOTOCLASH, GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS, IMPRACTICAL JOKERS, and CHILL.  Executive VP and general manager of truTV explains that these shows make for, “high-stakes, high-impact television," adding: "We have tremendous momentum as a network, driven by our strength in original programming and our ongoing growth in brand awareness.


Men are making up roughly 56% of the 18-49 and 25-54 audiences.  If you're pitching new concepts, targeting that younger male audience is advisable.

With fresh concepts like BLACK GOLD and SMOKING GUN taking to the air, mainstay series like FORENSIC FILES and others have been relegated to supporting roles.  The household numbers aren't enough to keep them front and center anymore, as the network moves towards a demographic play. Humor, comic relief, and fast paced video clip based ideas are finding a home.  Witness the success of SMOKING GUN and IT ONLY HURTS WHEN I LAUGH .

Pay attention to SOUTHERN FRIED STINGS.  A cop/reality series in the best tradition of the network.  The genre remains very strong in the schedule.