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USA Performance/Schedule Analysis - April 2009



Adults 18-49 & Adults 25-54





USA is all about consistency. The network is extraordinarily consistent month-to-month and week-to-week, making it easy for viewers to, well...view. They know what to find and when to tune-in.

HOUSE and NCIS have replaced SVU as the glue that holds the network together; they dominate the line-up with strips and three-hour primetime blocks. Other than that, WWE always runs on Monday nights, and preferred nights for original series are Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays. Movies have taken a back seat lately, with a diminished presence on the primetime line-up, although movie package purchasing is in full swing.



MONK and LAW & ORDER: SVU have left the line-up (they aired on Fridays in March) and were both replaced with HOUSE.  On Sunday nights, IN PLAIN SIGHT and LAW & ORDER: CI (original) began their new seasons midway through the month.


** April 19: IN PLAIN SIGHT returns for a second season
** April 19: LAW & ORDER: CI (ORIGINAL) eighth season debuts with all 16 episodes

** None

** Thursdays in June: BURN NOTICE
** Thursdays in June: ROYAL PAINS


USA gave a jump start to summer this April with the new season premieres of original dramas IN PLAIN SIGHT and LAW & ORDER: CI (ORIG). There were no original series on USA's air last April. The Monday through Sunday average primetime household and female ratings climbed by single digit percentages, while male ratings jumped by about 15%. 

On most nights of the week we see male and female ratings moving in different directions, primarily a result of the lack of appeal the LAW & ORDER franchise seems to hold for men. Male audiences preferred this year's 43 telecasts of HOUSE to last year's 43 telecasts of LAW & ORDER: SVU. As a result, we see a slightly more even male/female skew (47/53 vs. 44/56) and double digit increases for male ratings on every night but Sunday, the new L&O: CI night. WWE is USA's only male-skewing program, and it improved ratings by 10% among men vs. last year in its permanent Monday night timeslot.  This month's two primetime movies also scored higher with men than with women.

NCIS continues to earn more real estate on the USA primetime line-up. Ten seems to be its magic number, as ratings have improved by 10% across the demo board over last year, and it had 10 more telecasts over the course of the month (13 telecasts in April '08 and 23 telecasts in April '09).

Live Primetime Ratings Comparison: 
April 2009 vs. April 2008(% Change)
HH      A18-49    A25-54
Monday 8-11pm          21%        10%        17%
Tuesday 8-11pm           -3%         24%       21%
Wednesday 8-11pm      31%         10%        31%
Thursday 8-11pm          -2%          2%          8% 
Friday 8-11pm             -1%          9%        12%
Saturday 8-11pm           -13%        6%          0%
Sunday 8-11pm              26%       -6%           6%
MTWTFSS 8-11pm         8%         8%          12%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample


USA's primetime average was basically flat this month vs. last, as the network continues to pump out strong ratings in 2009. There weren't too many changes to the line-up, and there weren't too many changes to the bottom-line ratings. The average Monday - Friday 8-11PM average was off just one percentage point on households, up 5% on men and basically even on women.

Monday night's WWE remains the best-rated program, by far, among households and men, although it did take a slight loss among core male ratings vs. March (-5%).

Tuesday's three-hour HOUSE block lost about 10% of its female ratings vs. last month. While HOUSE looked like the rising star on USA at the beginning of the broadcast season, NCIS is turning out to be a solid contender. The network has been swapping time periods and nights between the two programs, presumably to see which performs better when, and with whom. Both programs lost a minimal amount of audience vs. last month, with HOUSE dropping slightly more. HOUSE usually wins with women while NCIS usually wins with households and men. On average, HOUSE's 43 telecasts averaged 22% lower than NCIS' 22 telecasts on households, and 10% lower on men, 10% lower on women 25-54, but 6% higher on women 18-49. The same story held when each program received a three-hour Sunday night block - NCIS won on households and men, HOUSE won on women. HOUSE has remained the 8PM lead-in to the female-skewing Sunday night originals.

Wednesday night's usual HOUSE / NCIS / NCIS line-up slipped vs. March, with household ratings down two percent, adults 18-49 down seven percent and adults 25-54 holding steady. The week with the full NCIS block was the highest rated of the month.

Thursdays felt the absence of BURN NOTICE, and took the biggest declines of the week, down 20% or more in ratings across the board.

On Fridays, HOUSE replaced last month's MONK repeats and L&O: SVU 10PM run, which resulted in a big demo improvement - household and women 25-54 ratings stayed about the same, while male ratings improved by more than one-third and women 18-49 ratings by grew by +20%, 

Saturday night was the only place to find movies on USA this month. Once a staple of the line-up, movies have been edged out by female-skewing one-hour dramas. Movies remain one of the few USA programming options with a male skew.

Sunday April 19th was premiere night for the eighth season of LAW & ORDER: CI and the second season of IN PLAIN SIGHT. Both programs joined WWE and NCIS among April's top 20 telecast list.

In its opening month, L&O's two new April '09 episodes performed 17% better among households, 33% better among women 18-49 and 22% better among women 25-54 than the five new episodes from June '08. But younger men are still turning away, with a  -22% ratings drop among men 18-49.

The premiere night of IN PLAIN SIGHT was on par with the premiere night of its first season last June, but there was considerable audience drop-off in the second week, with the program performing below the L&O lead-in.  Still too soon to call a trend, but definitely worth keeping an eye on.


USA delivered more P25-54 (1.42 million), P18-49 (1.35 million), total viewers (3.08 million) and households (2.29 million) than any other basic cable entertainment network in history for the month of April. This marks a first for basic cable with USA averaging a record-breaking ratings' win of more than 3 million total viewers for the month. (Source: USA press release).

The premieres of IN PLAIN SIGHT and LAW & ORDER: CI (ORIG) on April 19th both made the top 20 cable shows of the week among total viewers. IPS was topped by WWE and SPONGEBOB, while L&O: CI was topped by those programs plus NICK's PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR and Disney's HANNAH MONTANA. (Source: TV BY THE NUMBERS).


In February 2009 USA Network acquired the exclusive network television premiere rights to the 2009 Universal Pictures' film slate. The deal is considered to be one of the largest of its kind between a film studio and basic cable network. USA will receive two dozen of the studios' films, including Duplicity with Julia Roberts and Clive Owen, Fast & Furious with Vin Diesel, State of Play with Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck, Land of the Lost with Will Ferrell, Public Enemies with Johnny Depp, Funny People with Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen, Couples Retreat with Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau, The Wolfman with Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins, Green Zone (working title) with Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear and the upcoming untitled Nancy Meyers film with Meryl Streep, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin. Other titles include, Atonement with Keira Knightley and James McAvoy, Away We Go with John Krasinski and Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Boat That Rocked with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Emma Thompson, Cirque du Freak with Salma Hayek and Jane Krakowski, Sam Raimi's Drag Me to Hell, Flash of Genius with Greg Kinnear, Frost/Nixon with Frank Langella and Michael Sheen, The Limits of Control with Bill Murray and John Hurt, Milk with Sean Penn and Josh Brolin, Ethan and Joel Cohen's A Serious Man, Taking Woodstock with Emile Hirsch and Liev Schreiber, Traveling with Jennifer Aniston and Aaron Eckhart, and 9 with Elijah Wood and John C. Reilly.

Movie deals from 2008 include:
After the movie premiered, USA picked up the cable rights to air The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian from Disney ABC Domestic TV for approx. $15million. The 4 and a half-year contract for the movie begins September 2010.

A deal with Paramount will bring Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to USA, in addition to the first three entries in the series.

A New Line TV deal includes ten movies, three of which were pre-buys (Sex and the City: The Movie, Semi-Pro and He's Just Not That Into You). The seven other movies are The Golden Compass, Rendition, Running Scared, El Cantante, Martian Child, The Number 23 and Shoot 'Em Up.

USA is scheduled to air The Golden Compass in July 2010, Semi-Pro in September 2010, Sex and the City: The Movie in January 2011 and He's Just Not That Into You in March 2011.

USA has also agreed with Disney-ABC Domestic TV for the rights to Oscar winner No Country For Old Men, Enchanted and National Treasure: Book of Secrets.

And for those keeping track, USA likes its sequels, with four Raiders, three Pirates of the Caribbeans, two National Treasures, one Ocean's and one Bourne on its increasingly deep bench.

Back in 2007 the net had already implemented a strategy of selective movie acquisitions, purchasing exclusive basic-cable rights to Disney's The Game Plan to start airing in 2009. Starring "The Rock," it is an obvious fit with USA's Monday night WWE RAW series.

In addition, they have purchased Underdog, My Boss' Daughter and Bad Company, all slated to air after 2010.

USA and SciFi signed a $20 million Lionsgate package that includes 3:10 to Yuma (Early 2010), Good Luck Chuck (2010), Employee of the Month (2010) and Jason Statham titles War (2010), Crank (2009) and Chaos (2009).

Other deals include New Line's Hairspray (the 2007 version) for a four-year window beginning in 2010. Also Ocean's 13 (a competitive move after Ocean's 11 kept popping on TNT), License to Wed and Blood Diamond, all from Warner.


MONK: Renewed for an eighth and final season to air the summer of 2009, with a 16-episode order.

BURN NOTICE: Renewed for a third season, with a 16-episode order set to premiere on Thursdays in June 2009.

PSYCH: Renewed for a fourth season, with a 16-episode order.

WWE RAW has received a multi-year renewal, keeping the top-rated series on USA through 2010.


None announced recently.