Animal Planet Analysis - August 2011

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AUGUST 2011 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:

* Bold denotes programming change

SCHEDULING STRATEGIES:

Animal Planet is capitalizing on their success with edgier fare by scheduling more danger-driven series, featuring predators both real (RIVER MONSTERS, YOUR WORST ANIMAL NIGHTMARES) and imagined (THE HAUNTED.)

Thematic scheduling around animals / species is another strategy that has, for the most part, fallen by the wayside. Animal Planet will program series blocks as stunts on virtually any night of the week, as series are continually tested in different scheduling configurations.

Most weeknights programming leans toward the wild or raw side of animal life. Thursdays is  the home for new series (HILLBILLY HAND FISHIN', TANKED,) with specials and mini-series having been relocated to Tuesday.

Saturday is the only full night to regularly feature domestic programming, usually revolving around dogs, although cat-oriented series have recently made their presence felt.  Sunday, which used to feature more of a mixed bag, now seems to be firming up with more regularly scheduled programming and specials that explore the wilder, untamed animal themes.

Due to their continuous development cycle, APL is now launching new series and new seasons of returning series throughout the year.

AUGUST 2011 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / August 2011 vs. August 2010 (% Change)

HH

M18-49

W18-49

P25-54

Monday 8-11pm

-20%

-30%

-13%

-17%

Tuesday 8-11pm

-6%

-16%

-20%

-17%

Wednesday 8-11pm

-19%

-35%

-30%

-29%

Thursday 8-11pm

-9%

-11%

-22%

-11%

Friday 8-11pm

-36%

-50%

-20%

-37%

Saturday 8-11pm

6%

23%

6%

6%

Sunday 8-11pm

21%

33%

39%

41%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

-11%

-18%

-11%

-14%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

July's slight ratings decline steepened in August, off  modestly from last year's HH and demo delivery.  Major schedule changes affected every night but Specials-centric Tuesday. Weekends grew, but weekdays were uniformly down by significant double-digit percentages from August 2010.  Sunday at 10pm (#1 series HILLBILLY HANDFISHIN') was the only time period consistently scheduled throughout the month.

The wilder side of human-wild animal interaction ruled on Mondays, with various configurations of OPERATION WILD,  HILLBILLY HANDFISHIN', SWAMP WARS and RIVER MONSTERS appearing throughout the survey. RM18-49 declined 30% from last year and last month. RIVER MONSTERS' year-to-year declines continued, as the series as a whole was down 22% for RP18-49.

A block of MONSTERS INSIDE ME earned the smallest Tuesday viewership of the month. Go-to mini-series WILD RUSSIA yet again over-performed the network's Prime HH average, although its younger demos were not as responsive as P25-54.  The much-run mini-series declined from its performance in July, as did the repeats one month later of July 2011's DRUG KINGPIN HIPPOS and RATTLESNAKE REPUBLIC..

On Wednesday, the return of CONFESSIONS ANIMAL HOARDING held Women demos from last month, but led to a drop of 20% for Men. Demos were down in the 1/3 range across-the-board from last year, double the losses suffered in July.  Overall, the returning series was down by modest double-digit percentages from August 2010 for HH and the female demos that drive it.

None of the specials or series blocks stood out on Thursday, as the night was essentially flat with last month, while down by modest double-digit percentages from 2010.

WHALE WARS repeats from the previous Sunday were essentially replaced by new series TANKED on Friday, with the night losing half its young men from last year, when the night was still dominated by a much stronger WHALE WARS. This is the second month in a row with similar annual losses, with demos down sharply from July 2011. Overall WHALE WARS was down 13-16% in HH and Men demos from its performance in August 2010. When TANKED ran in back-to-back episodes the lead-in held or grew in Hour 2.

New series TANKED premiered in the domestic pet block the second and third Saturdays of the survey, replaced by a block of similar performing PIT BOSS  in week 4. Men demos generally equaled Women for the series, unlike the usual female-centric  mix for most domestic pet programming.

Sundays earned the most significant annual and monthly growth, with RW8-49 up nearly 40% from July.  HILLBILLY HANDFISHIN' was the big driver this night, finishing as Animal Planet's top series for August. Delivery dropped significantly though, as the 10pm episode's HH and demo delivery during weeks 3 & 4 was down nearly 50% from the average for week 1 & 2.

STRATEGIC OPPORTUNITIES:

If it's animals, it's a safe bet that a stop on your program pitch tour must include Animal Planet. Then again, if you have an idea that might be adaptable to animals (think MEERKAT MANOR), then bring it here, too. And the more reality, the better.

The old Animal Planet did not like to dwell on animal deaths.  The new Animal Planet, with a new logo, a new tag line and a new mantra likes wilder, more dangerous critters.  Before, it was everything up to the death...now, we're seeing killing and maiming -- animals vs. animals and animals vs. man. Titles with words like killer, ferocious, venomous and raw are finding more and more airtime. Not natural history so much as extreme wild life. It goes by many mantras by the network – programming with teeth, adrenaline-charged, etc. The programs that seem to resonate the best are those that explore the often dangerous intersection of man and beast. Originals are the bulk of their programming, and they're open to pitches....usually more accessible than most nets.

Recently, Animal Planet has taken to ordering 3x60 mini-series such as WORLD'S DEADLIEST TOWNS and INFESTED, possibly as a low-risk tactic to test new concepts without committing to a "full" series.

They're tough to find as most inventory has been picked clean, but The Planet is always looking for "quality acquisitions."

CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:

In spring 2011 Animal Planet announced that they will further refine their development process based on the network's track record since launching its new "Surprisingly Human" branding campaign nearly two years ago.

Returning to a time-honored Discovery Networks modus operandi, future development will be concentrated among four "buckets:"

  • Real people & things
  • Man vs. Nature; (action-driven, male-appeal)
  • Unusual relationships with animals (psychologically-driven, female-appeal)
  • Cute (Saturday block)

These different sub-genres will also continue to inform Animal Planet's scheduling strategy (see above.)

Saturday's dog programming has been going strong, especially among older women. It seems to have inspired a slew of dog- and cat-related programming, which is  now spilling beyond Saturday to find regular timeslots during the week. There's a long development slate about dogs and cats on the horizon. If it's got dogs, Animal Planet is considering it...police dogs, sled dogs, rescue dogs, show dogs, shelter dogs...you name it.

In addition, series like MUST LOVE CATS  and CATS 101, in addition to the 3 x 60 MY CAT FROM HELL have proven that felines can be just as popular. Get used to seeing a steady stream of series and specials on these two top domestic species, especially given their support by endemic advertisers for pet food, medications and other products.

RIVER MONSTERS continues to be the top series for Animal Planet, especially when new seasons premiere.

Mixed results have come from celebrities and/or personalities on the sked...but they must be credible, entertaining, authorities in their field.  Animal Planet does view itself as "general entertainment," not "animals," so use that as your creative cue.  Characters are always important here so if you know a colorful person who's good with animals, we'd still keep them in mind.

Continuing series include DOGS 101/CATS 101, THE HAUNTED, I'M ALIVE, I SHOULDN'T BE ALIVE, IT'S ME OR THE DOG, LOST TAPES, MONSTERS INSIDE ME, MUTUAL OF OMAHA'S WILD KINGDOM, PIT BOSS, PIT BOSS AND PAROLEES, RIVER MONSTERS, WHALE WARS.  New specials are INTO THE DRAGON'S LAIR, MADAGASCAR, WILD AMAZON, VIKING WILDERNESS.

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