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TruTV Analysis - July 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 July 2011 vs. June 2010 (% Change)

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

In July, truTV stoked its seemingly insatiable need for more blue-collar reality with the premiere of the Jennifer Lopez produced SOUTH BEACH TOW.   TOW is the latest in a slew of truTV repo programming that share subject matter as well as success rate.

The new show bowed to an impressive audience during its premiere and ultimately captured the top programming spot for the month.  TOW thrived thanks to appeal among both men and women across a wide age bracket.  The July 20th premiere tied for the strongest Wednesday opening ever for the network along with CONSPIRACY THEORY WITH JESSE VENTURA.

TOW shared the Wednesday night timeslot with OPERATION REPO: an obvious and effective pairing.  Using an established hit to lead into a similarly themed program worked well for the network.

While Wednesdays nights were strong, Tuesdays took the crown.  The night was comprised of favorite HARDCORE PAWN and the recently introduced STORAGE HUNTERS.  Tuesdays - which featured a double block of each show - were well received by men and women alike.  Although virtually every truTV show is male-skewing, PAWN attracts a fair female audience.  For July, PAWN'S female viewership was second only to TOW.

The combination of PAWN and HUNTERS boosted ratings among men aged 25-54 by 38%.  Last year, Wednesdays were built around premiere episodes of BAIT CAR. The marked increase is representative of viewers' preference for television that incorporates interpersonal relationships and well-established characters.  While BAIT CAR finds an audience, viewers are more likely to tune in week after week if there are personalities they can identify with.

Fridays and Saturdays - which were each packed with clip shows - were down from a monthly and yearly standpoint.  Shows like TOP 20 MOST SHOCKING and WORLD'S DUMBEST simply can't compete with the character-driven drama of other truTV programming.  Fridays and Saturdays were down 31% and 20% respectively among men aged 25-54.

New episodes of ALL WORKED UP on Mondays fared better than the network's clip shows but were still far from impressive.  All told, Mondays were among the weaker weeknights.

VEGAS STRIP was a bright spot for the network - the show helped bump Sunday ratings among men in both the 18-49 and 25-54 demos.  VEGAS was the second biggest program for the month and the only non-pawn/repo show to crack the top 20 telecasts.


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.