MAY 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.
MAY 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / May 2010 vs. May 2009 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
Dangerous animals continued to be a dominant theme for most of APL's top programs in May, joined by a generous helping of blue-chip Natural History.
Season 2 of RIVER MONSTERS, which premiered in mid-April, earned top honors for all series in HH and demo delivery for the second month in a row. In fact, RIVER MONSTERS more than doubled the RM18-49 of runner-up series WEIRD TRUE & FREAKY in May, while also scoring top honors for RW18-49.
Top specials and mini-series such as INSIDE THE PERFECT PREDATOR and WILD RUSSIA, also capitalized on the dangerous animals and Natural History themes, respectively.
Recognizing RIVER MONSTERS' strength, APL scheduled it at some point throughout all seven nights of the week, including some night-long blocks on each night besides Tuesday and Saturday. Not surprisingly, 3 of the 4 nights with the strongest annual growth regularly featured RIVER MONSTERS in their lineup. Ratings for younger women in particular grew the most on nights where RIVER MONSTERS was most concentrated, adding 25% to May 2009's average for RW18-49, and 11% to last month's average.
Monday was essentially flat with last month's and last year's ratings, helped by a block of RIVER MONSTERS, which earned the highest overall ratings for the day on the last Monday of the survey.
Tuesdays continued to offer a mixed bag of specials and series repeats, concentrating on Natural History The night was down somewhat across the board from April and lost some men from last year, but was up significantly for female demos. The Natural History miniseries also attracted a significant amount of older viewers, causing the night's overall Median Age to grow 27% over may 2009's Tuesday delivery, while the network as a whole grew slightly younger.
Wednesday's turn-around from steep annual drops earlier in the year continued from April, and was spurred by repeats of RIVER MONSTERS. The night was flat with April across the board.
Thursday featured a block of WEIRD TRUE & FREAKY leading into Natural History specials, with the last night of the month dedicated to the RIVER MONSTERS theme week. Continuing the trend established earlier in the week, RIVER MONSTERS was Thursday's top offering for HH and demos. The night overall was up significantly versus last month.
Friday began with blocks of I SHOULDN'T BE ALIVE, replaced by RIVER MONSTERS halfway through the survey, which led to the strongest growth of any night for May. Male demos were up sharply from April, as well.
Regularly-scheduled pet-oriented series continued on Saturday, with male demo delivery up slightly on both an annual and monthly basis for night as a whole.
The blocks of RIVER MONSTERS episodes dominating Sunday's lineup gave that night top HH and demo honors for the week in May, more than doubling the average of the other six nights. To put APL's success on this night into further perspective, the network essentially equalled mother-ship Discovery's HH and female ratings on Sundays in May.
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.