FEBRUARY 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 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 slowed as 2009 progressed, with 3rd Q 2009 dropping 10% from the corresponding period in 2008, while 4th Q 2009 was only down by 3% from 4th Q 2008. 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 HEROES starting things off at 8p.
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.
FEBRUARY 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / February 2010 vs. February 2009 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
Despite recent success in pushing the envelope to re-define the animal genre with series such as JOCKIES and WHALE WARS, it was Blue chip Natural History series that drove APL in February. WILD RUSSIA was the top offering for the Network for the second month in a row, nearly doubling the average Prime HH RTG. A repeat of the epic PLANET EARTH series off sister Discovery was #2 for the month.
Despite strong February increases for M18-49 over last year's delivery on Monday and Sunday nights, steep losses on Friday kept the demo essentially flat for the month overall. W18-49, as well, grew by double-digits 3 of 7 nights in February 2010, but also showed little overall annual growth.
APL Prime had been evenly split between younger women and men through most of 2009. After a December and January that saw an average 25% more W18-49 than men of the same demo, the split has evened out in February.
PIT BOSS finished its first season with a double-run on Mondays at 9p and 10p, following the HEROES series Animal Cops Miami at 8p. Replacing January's 10p THE HAUNTED with a second run of PIT BOSS led to double-digit demo losses for W18-49, though, compared to February 2009.
Tuesday was revamped for the third month in a row with UNTAMED & UNCUT replacing the 8p run of freshman series WILD RECON, now only at 9p. HH and demos were basically flat with last year but demos were down by modest double-digits across the board compared to January.
Wednesday's demo growth over last year was fueled by the later offering of the now double-run I SHOULDN'T BE ALIVE, which replaced I'M ALIVE at 10p. Together with 8p MONSTERS INSIDE ME, this night offers consistent male and female demos.
Thursday's 2009 HH and demo growth returned, as February's specials grew modestly from last year and last month. A one-night block of three episodes of WILD RUSSIA stood out.
Fridays offered a mixed bag of series episodes, with I SHOULDN'T BE ALIVE again taking top honors for both HH and demos.
Regularly-scheduled pet-oriented series continued on Saturday, with UNDERDOG TO WONDERDOG and return of IT'S ME OR THE DOG (Season 4) leading into PIT BOSS at 10p. W25-54 remain the strongest demo for this night of domestic series.
Specials replaced repeats of regular series on Sunday. This led to strong growth in male demos, driven by multiple episodes of PLANET EARTH, which ran in 3-hour blocks the last three weeks of February.
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.