Mailbag: Why Would USA Air ‘Burn Notice’ Originals Against ‘Person of Interest’ Originals?

Categories: Cable TV

Written By

November 8th, 2012

I’m happy Burn Notice is coming back tonight, but it airs against Person of Interest. No problem for me, I have a DVR! But half of the viewers don’t have DVRs and it seems crazy to me to bring back Burn Notice back in November only to air it against Person of Interest which appeals to the same type of audience. I looked at the numbers for last fall when it also aired against Person of Interest and the numbers were much lower than the summer run. Why would they do that?


Dallas, Tx


I’m not really sure of the crossover between the two shows -- I like them both too, but that doesn’t mean anything. But for what it's worth, in its fall/winter run, I think Burn Notice will mostly air against Elementary. Because tonight's fall Burn Notice premiere is two-hours it's also airing against Person of Interest.

What I am sure of is that for USA shows, the “in-season” (against broadcast network originals) are almost always noticeably lower than the summer airings regardless of the show or its competition on the broadcast and other cable networks. If you had looked back prior to last year you’d have noticed a mostly similar trend for Burn Notice in terms of fall/winter vs. summer runs and that was before Person of Interest was a glimmer in CBS’s eyes.

So I’m going to convert your question into something more generic: “Why does USA even bother airing originals during the broadcast network regular season since ratings are typically noticeably better in the summer?”

My guess is it mostly boils down to one thing: advertising sales. For one, generically, there are a lot of advertising dollars put against the regular season and it’s harder to ensnare your fair share of them if you don’t have any original programming to offer. Also, there’s a particularly large amount of advertising dollars out there heading into, and just past the holiday season. As a result, advertising rates are probably higher in general which may more than offset the lower ratings vs. summer airings. Whatever the case it’s clear that USA makes (or at least projects it will make) more total advertising revenue for the year by airing some originals during the regular broadcast season instead of airing them all in the summer.


  • One

    It’s worth noting that when Burn Notice actually ASCENDED to its peak during its first winter run in 2009. To be fair, the big declines started when it was sent to the fall in 2010, but at the same time, those declines have ended up being the new summer normal the next year, which may just mean people have slowly lost interest in the show over time.

  • spuffy

    I am a crossover viewer of both these excellent shows. Lower ratings or not, I am glad USA provides original programming during the “regular” season as well as the summer season. It not only gives us quality alternatives to watch, it also gives us greater continuity for shows like “Burn Notice.”

  • Barb

    Makes no difference to me. POI is my regular choice for the evening (new and repeats). BN is repeated several times soit can be watched later (in my case, the DVR records when the next available slot is open that doesn’t overlap with another recording).

  • One

    Side note, I also watch both Burn Notice and Person of Interest, and we had further complications last night because other members of my household record Grey’s Anatomy at the same time. Oddly enough, those complications actually persist going forward because CBS slots POI to end at 10:01 and ABC slots Grey’s to end at 10:02, so it autocancels the Burn Notice recording as a result (or cuts the recording of one of the others short if I bump Burn Notice up on the prioritizer). Which means having to get a later episode recorded instead, but my DVR doesn’t automatically seek that stuff out, so I have to manually reprogram for the later encores.

  • Masterbreel

    It is simple, USA does it, because they make money.

    Accounts are the bosses nowadays (luckily, i am going to be one :P)

  • Alex

    But if cable networks were intended to be compared apples to apples with the mainstream nets, we’d see them all listed together, not just the big 5. Whether USA airs a show opposite CBS – does anyone care? How many people actually get USA network down there and how many instead choose to watch the show streaming or on DVD later? You could argue for pretty much any show that airs on a cable network in the same timeslot as a mainstream network show that vaguely shares the same demographic. It’s probably one reason why we don’t see, say, Syfy’s ratings listed alongside ABC.

  • Holly


    How many people actually get USA network down there

    Nearly everyone with basic cable or satellite gets USA. Virtually the only ones who don’t get it are those who don’t pay for TV (getting only free over-the-air signal).

  • Robert Seidman

    @Martin: thanks. Citation noted, fines paid!

  • cas127

    Interesting question, well answered.

    Another question – Doesn’t Comcast (now owner of NBC, which in turn owns USA) care about running its cable originals against its broadcast originals?

    This intra-corporate competition would seem wasteful.


    Perhaps Comcast doesn’t really *care* all that much about the fate of NBC – since:

    1) It makes 80 gazillion more dollars from monthly cable fees than it does from NBC’s ad sales and

    2) By buying NBC, Comcast took one of a *very* small number of large content libraries off the market – perhaps restricting most/all of that library to Comcast “cable-only” status in the not distant future.

    Comcast may lose its cable delivery oligopoly to new technologies someday (internet, WiMax, etc.) but it will still control a sizable chunk of the pre-existing content that exists.

    Content that those alternative delivery vehicles won’t be free to transmit – without paying Comcast.

  • Casey

    @Mort: Look 5 posts above your own and you will see Anonymous spelled so badly, IT HURTS MY EYES!

  • shaun corbett

    Just a side note, USA Network makes an average of $0.60 per subscriber per month. Since USA is in just under 100 million homes (more than ESPN by the way), it means USA Network makes just over $720 million a year in revenue before they have sold a single commercial. Let that sink in for a second.

    USA is a gold mine for Comcast, with their impressive slate of original programming, and always win the prime time ratings war, which is likely to drive up their carriage fees come negotiation time. A better question to ask might be “why does NBC Network air original programming when USA is?”

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