Fall primetime insights: younger-skewing entertainment networks


Baseline Intelligence Media analysts Steve Sternberg and Shari Anne Brill have teamed for their latest report, Primetime TV Insight: The 2011 Fall TV Preview Edition. This is their take on the new fall shows. Yesterday we looked at older-skewing male networks. Today, it’s younger-skewing entertainment networks:

TBS is best known for off-network comedy, theatrical repeats, and a handful of original African-American comedies. The network’s Very Funny branding campaign (as well as its high-profile acquisition of Conan O’Brien) has positioned the network as the destination for comedy (although less than half of its primetime hours are actually comprised of the genre).

Glory Daze, which launched as a lead-in to Conan, was the network’s top ranked original series against adults 18-34. Nevertheless, the show declined throughout its nine-episode run, and was canceled as well.

TBS continues to rely on heavy doses of off-network comedies Family Guy, The Office, King of Queens, and Seinfeld. It recently acquired the off-network rights to The Big Bang Theory.

TBS also airs some regular-season and post-season Major League Baseball (its highest rated primetime telecasts). CBS and Turner signed a 14-year TV, Internet, and wireless agreement (2011-2024) to air the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and Championship, which went into effect this year. First and second-round games are shown nationally on CBS, TBS, TNT, and TruTV. Beginning in 2016, coverage of the regional finals will be split by CBS and Turner, with the Final Four and National Championship Game alternating between CBS and TBS.

TBS has experienced a slight dip in ratings performance among households and adults 25-54, during 2010/11. The network currently leads the way among adults 18-49 and 25-54 in this category by a comfortable margin.

TBS’s original African-American cast sitcoms, Are We There Yet?, Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns, and Tyler Perry’s House of Payne, are among the top five primetime comedies among African-American adults 18-34 and 18-49. Their appeal, however, does not extend as strongly to general audiences.

After four seasons, My Boys ended its run delivering the lowest ratings for any scripted TBS original series during 3rd Quarter 2010.

The launch of new animated comedy, Neighbors from Hell, failed to ignite much interest, and was the network’s second lowest performing original series. The show was canceled.

Wilfred, a new half-hour comedy starring Elijah Wood and Jason Gann debuted Thursday at 10pm in June, with the highest ratings ever for an FX comedy premiere. As we expected, after decent viewer sampling of the pilot, ratings quickly declined.

It concerns a young man struggling unsuccessfully to make his way in the world until he forms a unique friendship with his neighbor’s dog, Wilfred. To everyone else, Wilfred is just a dog, but to Ryan, he’s a crude and somewhat surly Australian bloke in a cheap dog suit. It’s based on the successful Australian
series of the same name. It is being paired with the second season of Louie.

New series planned for the year ahead include Outlaw Country, an organized crime drama centering on the country music industry in Nashville (starring Mary Steenburgen), Powers, based on the Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming comic book series about Chicago cops dealing with the city’s superheroes, the animated comedy, Townie, and American Horror Story (starring Friday Night Lights’ Connie Britton). It looks like FX might be shifting back to the type of edgy fare that first put it on the map. We hope so.

In development news, TBS has picked up two new comedies. The first is another Tyler Perry series, For Better or Worse, based on the feature film of the same name. The new comedy will air on Wednesday nights, along with Perry’s other properties, House of Payne, Meet the Browns and Are We There Yet?. The second series, The Wedding Band, is an original comedy about a group of middle-aged men who perform in a wedding band. The series stars Brian Austin Green (90210), Harold Perrineau (Lost) and Melora Hardin (The Office).

Over the past year, about one-third of TBS’s primetime hours consisted of acquired comedies (which also still have active syndication runs). TBS originals made up 15% of primetime hours. Movie repeats comprised close to half of its primetime schedule (48%), and sports accounted for the remaining 3%.

FX generally appeals to a significantly younger audience than USA or TNT, and that actually makes it more difficult to develop a hit – since older viewers as a group watch significantly more television.

FX has successfully branded itself as the home to gritty, push-the-envelope dramas – from The Shield and Rescue Me, to Nip/Tuck, and more recently Sons of Anarchy and Justified (Sons of Anarchy remains one of the highest rated cable series among adults 18-34, as well as FX’s highest rated series ever). The network ranks second to TBS in this category.

Unfortunately, the network seems to have temporarily moved away from the formula that made its dramas so successful. Recent efforts, The League, Terriers, and Lights Out, have not been able to attract sizable audiences.

On the original comedy front, the animated Archer does OK, while It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia remains a solid hit among the under-35 crowd.

The final nine episodes of Rescue Me will begin on July 13th and end on September 6th, to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Sons of Anarchy will start its fourth season in September. The seventh season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia will begin in September (in its regular Thursday 10pm slot), and will be followed by the third season of The League. Justified and Archer, both currently airing their second seasons, have been picked up for third seasons, starting in 1st Quarter 2012.

FX’s main acquired off-network program is Two and a Half Men. And while much industry focus is on its original series, movies actually accounted for nearly 80% of its primetime schedule hours over the past year, with original and off-network series at about 10% apiece.

The network’s new package of theatrical movies includes Avatar, Transformers 2, Star Trek, Twilight, The Proposal, The Social Network, Iron Man 2, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Grown Ups, and Karate Kid.

A&E is ranked third in this category. The network continues to market its brand of mostly reality shows as “real life drama.” According to Programming head, Bob DeBitetto, “…commitment to original programming targeting younger adult audiences remains paramount to A&E’s success.” It looks as though this commitment is paying off for them. Younger viewers are showing up as evidenced by drop in median age versus last year from 48 to 45.

Freshman series Storage Wars, which averaged 2.8 million viewers per episode grew weekly, peaking at 3.8 million viewers, and was picked up for a second season. The series inspired a spin-off, Storage Wars: Dallas.

There were also a few miss-steps this past year, however. David Hasselhoff’s reality series, which also featured his two teenage daughters, crashed and burned and was quickly canceled, Teach: Tony Danza, Growing Up Twisted (which featured Dee Snider, front man of heavy metal band, Twisted Sister), and
Strange Days With Bob Saget are also goners.

A&E has had mixed success in the scripted drama arena over the past few years, as The Cleaner, and The Beast, failed to catch on. Last season, however, the network had success with freshman drama, The Glades. The show returned for a sophomore season on June 5th. The season opener brought in 3.1 million viewers, 14% below last year’s debut, but just about what the show was averaging for the full season. A&E should be happy with that.

This year the network tried launching another new series. Breakout Kings, which debuted in early March. The drama had originally been set up as a pilot for FOX, but the network wound up passing on it. The show was rescued by A&E, which is making a push back into scripted series. Breakout Kings is about a team of convicts who get recruited to help U.S. marshals apprehend fugitives. So far, it’s actually doing better than The Glades among younger viewers, and has just been renewed for a second season.

Besides The Glades, the network will be returning 10 of its franchise series and will be launching 10 new ones by the end of this year.

Returning series are:
Manhunters (season 3 which premiered March 2011), Parking Wars (season 5 premiered April 2011), Gene Simmons Family Jewels (season 6 premiered June, 2011), Storage Wars (premiered July 2011), Beyond Scared Straight (season 2 premieres Summer 2011), The First 48 (season 11 premieres summer 2011), Billy the Exterminator, (Season 4 premieres summer 2011), Hoarders (season 4 premieres summer 2011), Intervention (season 10 premieres 4th Quarter 2011), Dog the Bounty Hunter (season 9 premieres 4th Quarter 2011).

A&E’s major off-network primetime series is Criminal Minds, which it airs in multiple hours throughout the week at 7pm, 8pm, 9pm, 10pm, and 11pm (depending on the day). The network also runs several Criminal Minds marathons.

In mini-series news, A&E has ordered Coma (Memorial Day, 2012), a modern retelling of bestselling novel by Robin Cook and film by Michael Crichton. The story will play out across multiple nights.

On the drama development front, the network has decided to pick up Longmire. The series is an adaptation of The Walt Longmire Mystery novels by Craig Johnson. Longmire is a charismatic, dedicated and unflappable sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming. Widowed only a year, and with the help of a young, attractive female cop, he becomes reinvigorated about his job and is committed to run for re-election.

Unscripted Series set to launch include, In Laws (premieres Q3 2011), which shines a light on married couples that are at the boiling point with their overbearing in-laws. Seasoned relationship experts will come in and use unconventional tactics to make them face their issues.

Ship Happens (premieres Q4 2011) is about a rare breed of independent truckers who have discovered the fortunes of transporting things traditional carriers won’t touch, such as airplanes, herds of goats, homes, etc. Boar Hunters (premieres Q3 2011) is about the Campbell clan and their unique Texas-based family business: hog hunting, Storage Wars: Dallas  (premieres Q3 2011) is a spin-off of Storage Wars.

New reality shows include The Biggest Loser-inspired, I’m Heavy, which follows people in weight loss programs, The Peacemaker about violence prevention in South Central L.A., The Squad: Prison Police, and Intervention In-Depth: One Man Rehab, which is a series of specials examining what occurs after the intervention.

When Court TV morphed into TruTV in January 2008, its household rating declined sharply. The network truly has a split programming personality. By day, Tru tends to be fairly straightforward and focuses mainly on live coverage of criminal and civil trials. But by late afternoon and into the late night and overnight hours, the cable network mutates into a noisy and tattoo-heavy lineup of docu-series featuring a motley crew of tow-truck drivers, pawnbrokers and conspiracy theorists.

The station’s tag line is “Not Reality. Actuality” and disclaimers at the start of most of their series state that episodes are “based on real events.” Things get so outrageous on TruTV programs that many believe the stories are more fiction than fact. Like most reality shows, the action is filmed docu-style, complete
with shaky camera movement and awkward angles. Many detractors say the shows are manipulated for dramatic effect.

Returning series include, Hardcore Pawn and Black Gold (both renewed for fourth seasons), Full Throttle Saloon (renewed for season three) and freshman series Lizard Lick Towing, which has been given an order for additional episodes.

Tru has just ordered six episodes of new series Hulk Hogan’s MCW, which features Hulk Hogan serving as a mentor to little people wrestlers. The series is set to premiere sometime this summer.

Tru picked up the off-network exclusive cable rights to Wipeout, which first premiered on ABC in 2008. The series will debut on the network this fall.

Tru has several new shows in development.
Semi-Pro follows a group of men who participate in a semi-pro football team. MotoClash takes a close-up look at the World MotoClash race, the longest and most dangerous motorcycle race ever. Guinness World Records, which is hosted by record holding brothers, Craig and Paul Pumphrey, coach others on how to break records. Impractical Jokers centers on four lifelong friends who strive to embarrass each other in public by using hidden cameras. Chill profiles Joe O’Donoghue “Joey Ice,” an ice sculptor along with his team as they create over-the-top ice sculptures. South Beach Tow follows the family-owned Tremont Towing business located in South Beach.

Hollywood Taxi features Mike Grasso, owner of a fleet of 290 taxi cabs operating in Hollywood. Bear Swamp Recovery features a Sicilian family that owns a New Jersey-based repossession company. For several years, Syfy’s viewership profile was heavily skewed toward men. The network successfully managed to maintainits household and adult ratings, while transforming its male-skewing programming slate to have greater dual audience appeal.

Syfy’s unscripted, Destination Truth (the network’s highest rated series), and Scare Tactics have been renewed for a fifth season – both will premiere early next year, along with the Ghost Hunters franchise. Back in mid-July of last year, Syfy tried its first-ever Thursday night reality block with Mary Knows Best (with self-proclaimed psychic and radio host, Mary Occhino) and Paranormal Investigators. Several other new reality shows are slated for 2011/12.

The network’s popular Saturday movie franchise will be back and there are a few more original movies in the works. On the scripted side, Syfy has had mixed success. BBC-drama remake Being Human, about three 20-something roommates, a ghost, a vampire, and a werewolf, debuted with 2 million viewers.

Of the 1 million adults 18-49 that tuned in, 58% (582,000) were women, the highest percentage of female viewers ever for a Syfy original series. While it underperformed the Season 4 opener of Eureka, which logged 2.5 million viewers, it surpassed the debut audience (1.6 million) for the now canceled Caprica.

Syfy’s other recent entry Stargate: Universe underwhelmed and was canceled after a brief run.  Syfy is has made some gains among total viewers and adults 18-49 vs. last year. Being Human and reality show Face Off were both renewed for second seasons.

In July 2011, Syfy debuted one new scripted series, the drama Alphas, and returned three others: Warehouse 13, Eureka, and Haven. Syfy’s new scripted programming block of Alphas and Warehouse 13 got off to an impressive start Monday night.

The July 11th debut of super-abilities drama Alphas was Syfy’s most-watched series debut in two years, delivering 2.5 million viewers and a 0.9 in adults 18-49. The season three debut of Warehouse posted 2.3 million total viewers and 0.8 in the demo, dipping just slightly from last year.

Talks are reportedly taking place between Syfy and producer and corporate sibling Universal Media Studios to pick up NBC’s canceled drama, The Event, as a possible mini-series.

The network also announced its partnership with high-tech videogame company, Trion Worldwide, to develop and launch a subscription-based, massive multiplayer online game that will debut simultaneously with a new weekly original series. They will also unveil a new, standalone site dedicated to gaming

Here is detailed information (including premiere dates where available) for all upcoming Syfy scripted and unscripted series in development, as well as original movies:

Original scripted series:
Alphas (July 2011) is about a team of ordinary citizens whose brain anomalies imbue them with extraordinary mental and physical abilities.

Battlestar: Blood & Chrome takes place in the 10th year of the first Cylon war. Three Inches is a single camera half-hour comedy. Professional daydreamer and underachiever Walter Spackman is struck by lightning and develops a unique “super” power, the ability to move any object using just his mind, but only a distance of three inches.

In the Dark follows a misfit group of third tier ghost hunters whose misguided efforts tend to highlight their incompetence rather than any paranormal activity.

Me and Lee is about a down on his luck 20-something who goes in for back surgery, but the procedure doesn’t go well.

Lee Majors (of Six Million Dollar Man fame) claims he has the perfect solution and entices the young man into his ultra-high tech lab and gives him bionic parts.

Unscripted series include:
Haunted Collector (June 2011) examines the ghosts and spirits who have taken up residence inside of objects.

Legend Quest (July 2011) is a fast-paced action-adventure series that follows Ashley Cowie, a real-life symbologist, as he travels the world in search of some of history’s greatest relics and artifacts, all of which are believed to hold hidden powers and mystical significance for ancient and modern cultures.

Paranormal Witness (Sept. 2011) is a high-octane drama documentary
series that brings to life the stories of people who have lived through paranormal experiences that defy explanation.

Culture Shock with Tommy Lee is a one-hour investigative travel show that follows Mötley Crüe’s Tommy Lee as he attempts to uncover the various rituals, symbols, and other mysteries of secret societies around the world.

Monster Man tells the behind-the-scenes story of Cleve Hall and his unique family monster-prop business.

Stunts Unlimited takes audiences behind-the-scenes into a world rarely seen, unveiling the innovations and problem solving necessary to accomplish the most spectacular movie stunts in Hollywood.

Hi Tech Hoaxes has two teams competing head-to-head to provide once-in-a-lifetime thrilling experiences for unsuspecting pairs of people.

Dinner with Deepak has best-selling author and spiritual teacher, Deepak Chopra dining and joining in conversation with some of the greatest minds and creators in the world today.

Tyler Shields is a docu-series featuring L.A.-based unconventional photographer Tyler Shields and his team as they create worlds that are always surprising, shocking, and totally surreal.

Overthunk follows two teams of four talented creators as they compete to design, build and set off massive chain reaction machines.

Change the Day You Die uses state-of-the-art science to dramatically transport its participants into the future to face their own self-inflicted demise.

Imagination Nation takes a look at the innovators behind Hammacher Schlemmer, America’s oldest continuously published catalog that offers imaginatively unexpected and innovative products.

America’s Smartest Kids brings together some of the country’s most imaginative, innovative teenagers in a challenge to invent a better future while competing for the title of America’s Smartest Kid.

Animal Planet
Animal Planet is in the bottom half of our younger skewing entertainment category. Ratings for the network have remained on par with last year and the network’s median age has declined by one year to 44. Animal Planet’s tag-line is “Surprisingly Human,” as the network believes “there is no human world separate from the animal world.” The content offered on the channel is considered to be family-friendly, which is of great interest to advertisers, hence our interest in reporting on the network’s programming content.

The familiar River Monsters, Whale Wars, as well as Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom will each be back for another season. Other returning shows include Dogs 101, Cats 101, Confessions: Animal Hoarding, Pit Boss, It’s Me or the Dog, and Pit Bulls and Parolees.

The network’s 2011-12 programming slate adds new character-driven series as well as a lineup that explores the transformative power of animals to heal, discovers a new face of conservation and travels uncharted waters into legend.

Detroit Animal Tattoo features Tom Renshaw, a world-renowned tattoo artist specializing in photo-realistic wildlife tattoos. The show documents the professional and personal life of Renshaw and his motley crew of body-inking associates.

Finding Bigfoot is about four eccentric but passionate members of the Bigfoot Field Research Organization (BFRO) who embark on one single-minded mission – to find the elusive “creature”  known as Bigfoot, or the Sasquatch.

Hillbilly Handfishing is about the city slickers who head to Oklahoma to submerge themselves in murky waters to catch catfish with their bare hands and feet.

Lion Kings of Las Vegas is about Las Vegas family determined to ascend the entertainment throne once occupied by Siegfried and Roy.

Mermaids: The Body Found is a special that explores the story of the United States Navy’s series of covert sonar tests back in the 90’s that were linked to mass die-offs of whales washing up on beaches around the world. Startling amateur video and photographic evidence, much of it never released until now, suggests that whales were not the only creatures affected by the Navy’s sonar. In 1997, scientists monitoring underwater microphones recorded a mysterious sound deep in the Pacific Ocean, a sound from an unidentified creature unlike any other animal recorded.

My Extreme Animal Phobia features a group of individuals debilitated by an irrational fear of animals.

Ned Bruha: Skunk Whisperer takes a hilarious look inside the unpredictable world of humane wildlife control in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the clash between man and beast.

Puppies vs. Babies, takes the 16 most popular clips from the week and pits them against one another in three rounds of playful competition for the coveted number one spot.

Rat Busters NYC follows New York’s toughest exterminators Jimmy Tallman and Michael Morales of Magic Pest Control as they scour the corners of the city, responding to calls involving unwanted pests.

Romance is Dead is about the X-treme Taxidermy shop where people come from far and wide to say farewell to their pets in a special way through pet preservation. Saved is a series that shares first–person accounts of animal heroism.

Next up: Mid-age skewing entertainment networks