PERFORMANCE/SCHEDULE ANALYSIS(Updated as of December 19, 2008)
Adults 18-49 & Adults 25-54
TOP PRIMETIME SHOWS:
WWE, HOUSE, MONK & PSYCH holiday specials
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 SVU are 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 network, but they will gear up again for the holiday season.
OCTOBER - NOVEMBER 2008:
Not too many changes this month - there were more slots for HOUSE at the expense of LAW & ORDER: SVU, more movies were on the schedule, and brief appearances were made by NCIS, MONK and PSYCH.
DECEMBER AND BEYOND:
** January 9 @ 10PM: PSYCH returns for second half of second season
** January 9 @ 9PM: MONK returns for second half of seventh season
** January 22: BURN NOTICE returns for second half of second season
** First Quarter 2009: LAW & ORDER: CI eighth season debuts with all 16 episodes
**February 11 & 12: WESTMINSTER DOG SHOW
** December 12 @ 10PM: THE STARTER WIFE
YEAR AGO/BIG PICTURE:
USA's overall performance was basically on par with last year's, with households and men delivering the same ratings in both Novembers and women improving by +6% among the 18-49s and +10% among 25-54s.
There were a few major programming changes to the line-up vs. last year. In the end, it was basically a story of which audience to please. LAW & ORDER: SVU has dropped demos across the board vs. last year, with a bit more than ten percent of men going away and nearly a quarter of the women tuning out. The franchise is now yielding its heavy Tuesday - Thursday load to HOUSE, which was well received, particularly among men. SVU had only four telecasts this month, while HOUSE had an astounding fifty-six telecasts. THE STARTER WIFE on Fridays has given the network a strong female focus on that night. Movies were used more tactically this year, with mixed results.
On Mondays, WWE shows some double digit declines vs. last year, but its core men 25-54 took the smallest hit of just -3%.
With HOUSE as the change-agent, Tuesday and Wednesday enjoyed twenty percent increases among men and to a slightly lesser degree, the women. All demos show a preference for HOUSE over SVU.
On Thursdays the network pulled in a significantly larger male audience (+58% for men 18-49, +34% for men 25-54), but lost a few women (-2% and -3%). The difference is HOUSE this year versus L&O: SVU repeats and CI original episodes last year. Again we see that men prefer HOUSE to the L&O franchise, and women like both.
With the STARTER WIFE the star of Friday nights this yearmen were down and women were up for the night.
Movies dominated Friday through Sunday last year - with just a few strong, select proven titles (E.L.F., The Bourn Identity, National Treasure and Pirates of the Caribbean). This year movies appeared on occasional Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and every Saturday. There was also a much broader scope of theatricals this year - 40 Year Old Virgin, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, The Break-Up, Bruce Almighty, Inside Man, and others, in addition to the same titles as last year. The results? Movies overall were down among men, up among women. Saturday was movie vs. movie and the classics of '07 topped the new offerings of '08 for all demos. On Sundays it was HOUSE this year vs. movies last year, and the winner was the '07 movies for men and the '08 plays of HOUSE for women.
NOVEMBER 2008 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
USA's total primetime audience was basically even with October's, with Monday - Sunday average ratings moving anywhere from -4% (women 18-49) to +6% (men 18-49). Only one night showed double digit declines (Sunday) and only one night showed across the board double digit increases (Thursday). But let's take it night by night to see what's working and what's not.
On Mondays WWE is still the net's top performer among men and households. It has shown a bit of a decline, but mostly among women. Male ratings for the show are down just -3% among the 18-49s and even among 25-54s. The HOUSE lead-in is still strong.
On Tuesdays the net played around with the 8PM lead-in to the 9PM and 10PM plays of HOUSE. There were two SVU's, a HOUSE a male-skewing movie (National Treasure) and a female-skewing movie (Sweet Home Alabama). This kind of comparison often leads to cloudy results, but this time it was crystal clear. The strongest night, by far, across-the-board was the line-up of three straight HOUSEs. Again proving that repeatability is a commodity in cable, or, more of the same is a good thing.
Wednesdays also seemed to be somewhat experimental: two weeks were back-to-back HOUSE, one week was an SVU lead-in to two HOUSES, one week was a solid NCIS block and one week was a younger-male-skewing movie (The 40 Year Old Virgin). And the winner is...the movie for men. The loser is SVU for everyone. Women stuck with NCIS, the movie and HOUSE, although their highest rated night was all HOUSE all the time.
In the "things that make you go HUH?"category: Thursdays were solid blocks of HOUSE through-out the month, and it was the night with across the board double-digit increases; Sunday was also back-to-back HOUSE and was the night with double-digit declines. Thursday was actually higher rated than Sunday against households and men - a rarity for any network. The likely culprit is increased network competition on Sunday nights during the sweeps month, including NFL FOOTBALL, DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, and the 24 prequel movie.
THE STARTER WIFE was the big story on Friday this month. It did not hit its stride, and lost about 20% more of its core women ratings. Even With HOUSE and The Break-Up as lead-ins, the program could not find its footing. Not surprisingly, there have been no announcements of a renewal from USA. The best success on Friday was a night of holiday specials -- E.L.F., a MONK special and a PSYCH special.
Saturdays were pure movies this month, and men grew by +205 while women were even with October. That audience shift is mostly about LAW & ORDER: SVU being dropped in place of movies. With only four telecasts of that program all month (in a five week month), declining ratings and the success of HOUSE, the future for the long-running L&O franchise looks dim.
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.
But pre-buys are what's in fashion now, and USA Network is in the game with both Paramount and New Line. USA bought Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull before its theatrical release, plus the first three entries in the series. USA ran the previous three in the series -- Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), The Temple of Doom (1984) and The Last Crusade (1989) -- in May and June 2008, attracting big audiences.
The New Line TV deal includes ten movies, three of which are 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.
PSYCH: Renewed for a fourth season, with a 16-episode order.
IN PLAIN SIGHT: A second season has been ordered.
WWE RAW has received a multi-year renewal, keeping the top-rated series on USA through 2010.
Maybe not technically a cancellation, but USA has taken a pass on US OPEN TENNIS. 2008 will be the last year tennis fans can find the opening week of the tournament on USA. Starting in 2009 it will be shared by ESPN and The Tennis Channel.
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