DECEMBER 2009 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:
* Bold denotes programming change
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 (LOST TAPES.) The older-skewing COPS/PRECINCT series known as HEROES now occupy only one Prime hour. This shift in strategy has led to a continued shedding of older viewers, although the Network's annual declines in Median Age have slowed as the year has progressed, with 3rd Q 2009 dropping 10% from the corresponding period in 2008, while 4th Q is only down by 3% from 4th Q 2008.
Thematic scheduling around animals / species is another strategy that has, for the most part, fallen by the wayside. Mondays used to be all HEROES programs, but now features series, both domestic and wild, with HEROES relegated to 10p.
Tuesdays and Wednesdays lean toward the wild or raw side of animal life, and Fridays go more "reality" (UNTAMED & UNCUT; I'M ALIVE). Thursdays are mainly reserved for specials and documentary mini-series (BLUE PLANET.) Saturday is the only full night to feature domestic programming, usually revolving around dogs. Sunday, which used to feature more of a mixed bag, now seems to be firming up with more regularly scheduled programming (albeit repeats at the moment) 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.
DECEMBER 2009 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / December 2009 vs. December 2008 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
Animal Planet's year of increasing M18-49 slowed somewhat in November and ceased completely in December, as W18-49 grew by double-digits on all 7 nights. While Men 18-49 and M25-54 ratings have hit a new tier this year, fed by the wild and raw programming direction the Network has adopted, the big story for December is the resurgence of younger women drawn by domestic series such as DOGS 101, and specials on dogs both CUTEST and UGLIEST.
Overall, male/female delivery which was evenly split in Prime for most of 2009, took a decidedly female tilt in December 2009, with W18-49 outdrawing their male demo counterparts by nearly 1/3 on average.
The dichotomy in male/female ratings plays out in series preference by demo in December, with RIVER MONSTERS and WHEN ANIMALS STRIKE the top series among Men, while DOGS 101 and THE HAUNTED draw a preponderance of female viewers.
After September & October's return to more regular scheduling the end of the year saw a more opportunistic approach with only 1 weekly Prime hour (SU 10P THE HAUNTED) free from interruption throughout December. Most likely this decision was driven by the desire to remove Xmas week from the monthly program-averages equation, a practice followed by many Cable Networks.
Monday's growth in W18-49 was driven in part by the last three episodes of the first season of PITBULLS & PAROLEES, with a repeat at 8p leading into a premiere at 9p. The main draw, though for female demos on this night was a Xmas week block of DOGS 101.
Tuesday was completely revamped in December - two hours of WEIRD, TRUE & FREAKY followed by 10p LOST TAPES, were out; I'M ALIVE, THE HAUNTED and I SHOULDN'T BE ALIVE were in. This wholesale shift led to a 28% decline in M18-49 from November while W18-49 grew by 19% from last month. The three new series worked well together, with strong female demo growth and retention from 8-11p leading to modest growth for the night overall for that demo.
Wednesday's strong demo growth over last year was fueled by a three hour presentation of RIVER MONSTERS on 12/23. Two episodes of WHEN ANIMALS STRIKE earned top demo honors for regularly scheduled series on this night.
Thursday's earlier demo growth this year returned, as December's specials grew sharply from last year and last month. "Blue-Chip" Natural History specials ECHO QUEEN OF ELEPHANTS and YELLOWSTONE:BATTLE FOR LIFE stood out.
Fridays offered a mixed bag of series episodes, with a run of PITBULLS AND PAROLEES taking top honors for both HH and demos.
Regularly-scheduled pet-oriented series continued on Saturday, with a double-run of DOGS 101 leading into CATS 101 at 10p. W25-54 are the strongest demo for this night of domestic series.
Sunday's strong growth in female demos were driven by multiple runs of THE HAUNTED on this night throughout December.
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.
It's tough to find as most inventory has been picked clean, but The Planet is always looking for "quality acquisitions."
CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:
With its new branding and new vision firmly in place, Animal Planet is taking on the new season with an ambitious lineup - 24 original series, including 14 returning programs and ten new ones that the Planet would like to brand as "a broad range of content with an entertainment attitude."
"Last year's rebrand was all about transforming Animal Planet into a multi-dimensional entertainment destination that can compete with the best television," said Marjorie Kaplan, president and general manager of Animal Planet Media. "We've had success in every one of our genres from grand scale docudramas like WHALE WARS and JOCKEYS to our Saturday night pet entertainment to gorgeous natural history. This year's slate builds from there to make us even stronger and more exciting."
The network will delve into dramatic stories (LAST AMERICAN COWBOY), pet programming, (PIT BOSS) and natural history (MUTUAL OF OMAHA'S WILD KINGDOM.)
The network has taken stock of what worked and what didn't in the past year. "When animals attack" has become a genre unto itself, and is pulling in the men for an increasingly male audience skew. These programs are now the building blocks of the mid-week schedule.
The MEERKAT copycats (LEMUR, ORANGUTAN, CHIMPS, even MEERKATS 2) weren't as strong as the animal that spawned them, programming-wise, ratings-wise or buzz-wise.
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 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. Dogs from Alaska, dogs from Minnesota, dogs from New Jersey...there are endless variations here and Animal Planet seems determined to explore them all. And for the most part, they all seem to be resonating with women.
WHALE WARS and RIVER MONSTERS are the biggest successes to come out of 2008/2009, and are among the 14 or so programs renewed for 2009/2010. Both of these programs focused more on the human element than the animal element.
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.