JULY 2011 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 (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 special 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.
JULY 2011 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / July 2011 vs. July 2010 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
July's ratings off slightly from last year and last month's HH and demo delivery. Major schedule changes affected Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, with mixed results. New series OPERATION WILD and INFESTED launched on Monday and Thursday, respectively.
OPERATION WILD premiered the third Monday of the survey, with back-to-back half hours 8-9pm. While building from the 8pm to the 830pm episode, there was a slight decline in demo delivery for the hour from week 1 to week 3. RIVER MONSTERS, which is down from last July, was the strongest series offering on this night, joined by the special RATTLESNAKE REPUBLIC, the network's strongest special this month.
Specials ruled on Tuesday, with WILD RUSSIA again over-performing the network's Prime average. The much-run mini-series actually improved its performance from July 2010 by 33% in HH Rtg and 40% in demos, perhaps indicating that blue-chip Natural History can still captivate an audience. Adding to this was the stellar performance of WILD AMAZON ,as well as the top-rated vehicle for M18-49 in July, DRUG KINGPIN HIPPOS. Overall, younger men were up 25% over last year, with older female demos up a similar percentage from June.
On Wednesday, repeats of the previous Sunday's SWAMP WARS and FINDING BIGFOOT episodes in June were replaced by a stack of I SHOULDN'T BE ALIVE. Overall, the returning series was down by modest double-digit percentages from July 2010, as it lost demos from week to week throughout the survey. The night declined sharply from June in HH and demos.
Previously reserved for specials and cuddly domestic pet series, Thursday benefited from the premiere of INFESTED, which grew in the 50% for RM18-49 from last year and last month. Thursday also benefited from repeats of Sunday's SWAMP WARS episodes, as well as the special MAN-EATING SUPER SNAKE.
WHALE WARS returned to Friday at 8pm and 9pm leading into repeats of FINDING BIGFOOT and other series episodes at 10pm. Overall WHALE WARS was down 25-35% in HH and demos from July 2010, a month which also benefited from new RIVER MONSTERS episodes at 10pm. This led to the steepest overall declines from last year for the second month in a row. Year-to-year losses were steeper in July than June, with July down in the 15% range across the board from last month.
Cats were replaced by dogs on Saturdays, as DOGS 101 replaced MY CAT FROM HELL and CAT'S 101 from 8-10 Pm, before PIT BOSS returned, replacing DOGS 101 at 9 and 10pm. PIT BOSS equaled its performance from July 2010, and females and older demos were up modestly from last year and last month for the night as a whole.
Sundays featured various combinations of SWAMP WARS, WHALE WARS and FINDING BIGFOOT, interspersed with series episodes and specials. Compared to July 2010, the night was up in HH Rtg, but down modestly in demos. A stack of FINDING BIGFOOT episodes took top honors on this night, with SWAMP WARS also drawing a higher than average viewership.
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.