Buoyed by record ratings growth in January, Travel Channel will add several new original shows it hopes will make it more of a destination for viewers.
Travel Channel last month enjoyed the largest primetime ratings growth of any ad-supported cable network, a 150-percent increase from the year-ago period. Its primetime numbers jumped to 0.5 from a 0.2, according to Nielsen Media Research.
That growth was fueled by increases in viewership for its World's Best
and Travel Channel Secrets
anthology program blocks. World's Best, which offers top-10 lists of anything from the creepiest destinations to the best hotels in a city, airs Wednesday from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Travel Channel Secrets
airs on Mondays and Tuesdays, from 9 p.m. to 11p.m.
Travel Channel is looking to build on that success with another primetime anthology-type block. Later this year, it plans to add Travel on the Edge
on Thursday nights, according to executive vice president and general manager Steve Cheskin.
The strand will start off as an hour-long offering in the third quarter and expand to two hours in the fourth quarter, Cheskin said.
The new program block aims to provide viewers with fly-on-the-wall, behind-the-scenes documentaries on destinations and places. Travel Channel has already ordered two four-hour blocks of episodes on airports and South Beach, Fla., Cheskin said.
The episodes on airports, for example, would introduce the audience to the "characters," or the employees and officials at a particular airport.
Also planned for this year is Secrets of Travel Survival, which will tutor viewers on how to deal with such travel emergencies as what to do when a plane is about to crash, or how to prepare when a hurricane is about to hit. Those shows would most likely air during the Edge
For the second year, Travel Channel this month will air live coverage of Mardi Gras. The network has lined up a celebrity host, New Orleans resident Harry Anderson, for the Feb. 27 festivities. Anderson, who starred in Night Court
and Dave's World,
owns a magic shop in New Orleans.
Travel Channel's strategy is to be more than a travelogue by first pinpointing good stories, then developing travel angles for them while emphasizing popular destinations, Discovery Networks U.S. president Johnathan Rodgers told writers at the recent Television Critics Association tour.
At that same gathering, Cheskin boasted, "We had the highest percentage ratings increase in the fourth quarter of any network that wasn't involved with a hanging chad."
Travel Channel is now in almost 51 million homes. It added 13 million subscribers last year and recently launched in Chicago; Los Angeles; Seattle; Baltimore; Tucson., Ariz., and Denver.