DECEMBER 2010 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, previously reduced to only one Prime hour, is now on hiatus. This shift in strategy led to a significant decline in Median Age in 2009. 2010 has seen a stabilizing of Median Age, thus far.
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 no discernable theme
Most weeknights programming leans toward the wild or raw side of animal life, with Thursdays 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 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 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / December 2010 vs. December 2009 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
Modest declines in female demos were offset by growth in male delivery, as APL finished December with a modest decline in HH Rtg from last year, but essentially flat across the board compared to November 2010.
Twenty percent of the hours that finished in the Top Twenty category were blue-chip Natural History, which tends to do well with Men. APL's Prime skewed exactly 50/50 Male/Female this month, compared to female-skewing 44/56 split in December 2009. Uninterrupted blocks of male-appeal RIVER MONSTERS on Tuesday also helped even the demographic balance.
Specials dominated in December, with Monday and Sunday changing from series-driven nights to ones dominated by Specials.
Monday's domestic pets theme from earlier in the year was interrupted in the first week of December for a block of the off-Discovery mini-series LIFE, which scored well in Men demos. The weeks that followed saw a mix of domestic pet series and specials, with a block of PITBULLS & PAROLEES filling the last Monday of the survey. The night was up sharply from November in HH and female demos.
Tuesday's 3-hour block of RIVER MONSTERS nearly doubled delivery of younger men from last year, while increasing them from 50% from last month, when the series was reintroduced to Tuesday night.
On Wednesday, a block of I SHOULDN'T BE ALIVE led to modest declines in HH and younger adult demos from last year, when the night was driven by a wider variety of "scary animal" series, as well as a night of RIVER MONSTERS. The night was up modestly over last month
While a block of BLUE PLANET scored well in December 2009 on Thursday, the perennial off-Discovery mini-series dropped 25% in HH delivery with a similar deployment in 2010. Two runs of the special HILLBILLY HAND FISHIN' on this night scored 40% over the Prime average for Men and Women 18-49, leaving the night flat with last month. The aforementioned BLUE PLANET and a block of the ubiquitous RIVER MONSTERS led to the annual decline in w18-49 on Thursday.
Friday's mixed bag featured FATAL ATTRACTIONS and THE HAUNTED, along with another of LIFE specials and continued Thursday's losses in younger women. The night was down sharply for Women demos from November, as well.
Saturday's mix of domestic pet specials and series episodes led to modest year-to year and month-to-month losses. A block of PITBULLS & PAROLEES was the lone Saturday stand-out.
On Sunday, I SHOULDN'T BE ALIVE and FATAL ATTRACTIONS were replaced by three weeks of PLANET EARTH, which was succeeded by the re-launch of WHALE WARS at the end of the month in a three hour block. This led to strong demo growth for Men over last year and last month.
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.
Animal Planet continues its rebranding campaign, rolling out the tagline "Surprisingly Human" at the 2010-2011 Upfront Presentation. Among the highlights, Animal Planet announced the launch of several new series, including:
DOLPHIN WARRIORS, LAST CHANCE HIGHWAY, MUST LOVE CATS, TAKING ON TYSON, SKUNK WHISPERER (wt), WORLD'S DEADLIEST TOWNS (wt). 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.