MARCH 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 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.
MARCH 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / March 2010 vs. March 2009 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
Building on its recent success in pushing the envelope to re-define the animal genre with series such as JOCKEYS and WHALE WARS, the Network scored well with the premiere of FATAL ATTRACTIONS, a series built around people who choose to share their living space with dangerous animals. Settling in as the first regularly scheduled Sunday night series in some time, FATAL ATTRACTIONS was the top-rated offering on APL in March for HH and key demos. Dangerous animals in the home seems to have been a successful theme in March, with THE TIGER NEXT DOOR and A LION CALLED CHRISTIAN earning top spots among APL specials this month, (following the "roadblock" 2 hour stunt of LIFE episodes which ran on multiple Discovery networks on 3/21)
Both 18-49 demos grew nearly 20% overall in March compared to last year, with M18-49 also showing modest gains over February 2010. After a December and January that saw APL deliver an average 25% more W18-49 than men of the same demo, the split has evened out in February and March 2010.
Despite strong February increases for M18-49 over last year's delivery on Monday, W18-49 and A25-54 were essentially flat. ANIMAL COPS MIAMI, PIT BOSS and I SHOULDN'T BE ALIVE were the top offerings for Men on this night (the latter two in repeats.)
Tuesdays saw a mixed bag of mostly series repeats, with RIVER MONSTERS and MANEATERS the top offerings. The night was flat with last year and up slightly for Men demos vs. February.
Wednesday was the sole trouble spot for APL in March, with steep drops across the board. It may have been a case of going to the well once to often with repeat episodes of MONSTERS INSIDE ME, I SHOULDN'T BE ALIVE and I WAS BITTEN.
Thursday's mix of specials and stunts included two runs of premiering series FATAL ATTRACTIONS, which helped drive the night's growth, as did a block of PLANET EARTH and a run of KILLER ALIENS.
Fridays offered a mixed bag of series episodes, with I SHOULDN'T BE ALIVE again taking top honors for both HH and demos, as it did in February.
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 DOGS 101 at 10p, which helped drive the strong growth for M18-49 on Saturday. W25-54 remain the strongest demo for this night of domestic series, however.
Sunday's strong growth over last year and last month was driven by the aforementioned FATAL ATTRACTIONS, which was featured in a 3-episode block on the final Sunday of the month, as well as the two episodes of the DSC/BBC blue-chip series LIFE, which was stunted across most Discovery Communications networks the week before.
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.