Animal Planet Analysis - May 2011

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MAY 2011 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:

* Bold denotes programming change

SCHEDULING STRATEGIES:

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, with Thursdays  mainly reserved for specials and documentary mini-series (BLUE PLANET.) 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.

MAY 2011 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / May 2011 vs. May 2010 (% Change)

HH

M18-49

W18-49

P25-54

Monday 8-11pm

11%

56%

6%

22%

Tuesday 8-11pm

0%

46%

-7%

13%

Wednesday 8-11pm

-10%

-12%

6%

-9%

Thursday 8-11pm

-20%

-32%

-28%

-25%

Friday 8-11pm

-19%

-32%

-24%

-25%

Saturday 8-11pm

33%

36%

31%

47%

Sunday 8-11pm

-14%

-15%

-23%

-23%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

-5%

-5%

-10%

-9%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

While April was boosted by the return of audience favorite RIVER MONSTERS with new episodes, reversing recent losses in Male demos and older adults, May was a different story. Animal Planet chose to rely on new and repeat episodes of RIVER MONSTERS to fill nearly half of May's 105 Prime hours, 30% more than in 2010, when May also featured new episodes of the series.

As we have seen when other networks significantly expand the scheduling of a hit series to fill weak time periods, the overall numbers tend to decline. Compared to May 2010, RIVER MONSTERS was down 20-30% in HH and key demos.

Overall, annual losses for RW18-49 were double those experienced in April.

May finished overall in only slightly negative territory thanks in part to the continued success of the domestic pet series and specials. MUST LOVE CATS, the premiering mini-series MY CAT FROM HELL  and two runs of the special TOO CUTE! all finished in May's Top 10.  Success with cat-oriented fate had eluded Animal Planet until recently, but the network is well-poised to build on these successes, combined with a dedicated Development unit for domestic series and specials.

Overall, May 2011 was yet another transitional month for Animal Planet's Prime lineup. The only 5 of 21 Prime time slots that were consistently scheduled, all featured RIVER MONSTERS. No other series or anthology was slotted consistently for the entire survey.

The recent trend of shedding older viewers continued, as Median Age dropped 5% from May 2010, and 3% from April.

RIVER MONSTERS helped Mondays grew strongly for Men over last year, despite a weak return for YOUR WORST ANIMAL NIGHTMARE at 8pm (off 45% for RP18-49 from May 2010.)

On Tuesday, a block of the venerable off-Discovery mini-series BLUE PLANET filled the first two weeks of the survey, continuing from April. Specials and a one-night block of RIVER MONSTERS filled out the rest of the month, leading to a second night in a row for strong growth for M18-49.

On Wednesday, repeats of RIVER MONSTERS  from 8-10pm, led into either I'M ALIVE, the off-Discovery series HOGS GONE WILD, or another run of (you guessed it) RIVER MONSTERS. Not surprisingly, the latter was the only 10pm offering to improve the 9pm lead-in. The night was down slightly from last May, and essentially flat with last month.

Thursday's steep  annual drops from previous months continued, as an extension of Saturday's domestic animal appeal did not immediately translate to this night, compared to the mix of WEIRD, TRUE AND FREAKY with blue-chip Natural History featured on Thursday in May 2010. Delivery was essentially flat with April 2011.

On Friday the 8pm and 9pm runs of April's premiere series INFESTED! and KILLER OUTBREAKS were replaced by repeats of THE HAUNTED, RIVER MONSTERS  and HILLBILLY HAND FISHIN'.  Demos were were down sharply from last year, when RIVER MONSTERS  and I SHOULDN'T BE ALIVE  dominated the Friday schedule. Female viewers declined slightly from last month, while Male viewers grew at a similar rate.

Cats ruled on Saturdays, which were dominated by the return of MUST LOVE CATS, replacing CATS 101 at 10pm. The special TOO CUTE  and premiering 3 x 60 MY CAT FROM HELL  also scored above average numbers on this night, providing Animal Planet with their strongest across-the-board growth of the month.

Returning series RIVER MONSTERS dominated the Sunday's line-up, but could not lure last years viewership levels. Compared to a similar line-up in May 2010, HH and demos were down by modest double-digit percentages. The series strongest single airing followed the premiere of the #1 May special MADAGASCAR, which essentially doubled the Prime average on Sunday.

STRATEGIC OPPORTUNITIES:

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.

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:

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.

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