JANUARY 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 have slowed as the year has 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.
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.
JANUARY 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / January 2010 vs. January 2009 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
2010 dawned with Animal Planet continuing to tread water in growth of M18-49, while W18-49 continue their recent upsurge from December 2009. Despite strong increases for M18-49 over last year's delivery on Monday and Saturday nights, steep losses on Friday and Sunday kept the demo in the "flat" category for the month overall. W18-49, on the other hand, grew by double-digits 6 of 7 nights in January 2010, bolstered by series dealing with domestic animals (PIT BOSS, IT 'S ME OR THE DOG) or perilous situations (I'M ALIVE, THE HAUNTING.)
While APL Prime had been evenly split between younger women and men through most of 2009, January saw nearly 20% more W18-49 than men of the same demo. This was down slightly, however from December's advantage of over 30% for younger women.
The opportunistic approach to scheduling from 4th Quarter 2009 continued in January, with no time period free from interruption at least once this month.
Repeats of the previous Saturday's premiere series PIT BOSS replaced PITBULLS & PAROLEES on Mondays at 9p. With the HEROES series Animal Cops Miami relocated from 10p to 8p, and a couple of domestic rescue specials, Monday could be an extension of Saturday's domestic animal theme. Bottom line, Monday showed the greatest growth in both male and female demos of any night in January.
Tuesday was completely revamped for the second month in a row - I'M ALIVE, THE HAUNTED and I SHOULDN'T BE ALIVE were out; new series WILD RECON is now double-run 8-10p, followed by MANEATERS. Demos were basically flat with last year and last month, with HH delivery suffering a 15% decline against both January 2009 and December 2009. WILD RECON grew nicely for M18-49 in its first three telecasts, before dropping sharply the final Tuesday of the month. Overall, the series scored slightly above average for M18-49, but decidedly below that mark for HH and W18-49.
Wednesday's strong demo growth in younger women over last year was fueled by I SHOULDN'T BE ALIVE, and to a lesser extent, I'M ALIVE, which together accounted for nealry 3/4 of Wednesday's Prime offerings.
Thursday's 2009 demo growth returned, as January's specials grew modestly from last year and last month. Repeats of audience favorites THE BEAR WHISPERER and 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 the premiere of UNDERDOG TO WONDERDOG and return of IT'S ME OR THE DOG (Season 4) replacing a double-run of DOGS 101 from 8-10p. These in turn, led into the premiere of PIT BOSS, replacing CATS 101 at 10p. W25-54 are the strongest demo for this night of domestic series. While basically flat with last month, the night grew over January 2009's demos by strong double-digits across-the-board.
Sunday's strong growth in female demos were driven by multiple runs of THE HAUNTED and, yes, I SHOULDN'T BE ALIVE.
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.