Animal Planet Analysis - September 2011

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SEPTEMBER 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. Thursdays is  the home for new series (HILLBILLY HAND FISHIN', TANKED,) with specials 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.

SEPTEMBER 2011 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

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

HH

M18-49

W18-49

P25-54

Monday 8-11pm

-21%

-52%

-6%

-20%

Tuesday 8-11pm

11%

-13%

-6%

-5%

Wednesday 8-11pm

-13%

0%

-6%

0%

Thursday 8-11pm

-21%

0%

0%

0%

Friday 8-11pm

13%

5%

47%

16%

Saturday 8-11pm

25%

-7%

38%

18%

Sunday 8-11pm

18%

57%

38%

25%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

0%

-6%

6%

6%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

After two months of increasing annual losses, September provided a return to last years delivery levels. Every night of the week was overhauled, with the recently introduced TANKED moving from Saturday to more competitive Thursday, Friday and Sunday slots. APL's confidence in TANKED was rewarded, as the  series earned five of the top ten individual telecasts for the month. Weekends grew for the second month in a row, compared to last year. Overall APL was also flat with August 2011.

Each Monday featured a block of aspecific series with only HILLBILLY HANDFISHIN' equaling or bettering the average Prime delivery for the month for HH and key demos. Blocks of THE HAUNTED, I'M ALIVE and new limited series KILLER OUTBREAKS underachieved, as the common theme of "Fear" did not seem to resonate with APL viewers this month. RM18-49 declined 52 % from last year and 14% from last month, with only older women growing over August's numbers.

While Tuesday was down slightly from last year, six episodes of the off-Discovery Channel mini-series HUMAN PLANET led the night to significant growth across the board compared to last month. Four episodes of HUMAN PLANET finished within the top 10 rated programs for the month. Perennial audience favorite special YELLOWSTONE: BATTLE FOR LIFE also achieved typical above average ratings on Tuesday. The downside of the blue-chip doc approach was a 25% increase in Median Age for the night over last year.

On Wednesday, the return of  ANIMAL COPS HOUSTON at 8pm did not help the lead-out block of CONFESSIONS ANIMAL HOARDING, with both series significantly below the prime average for HH and demos. Delivery was essentially flat with last year and last month. A run of new series RAT BUSTERS NYC at 8pm continued to attest to the lack of appeal among Women for vermin-based series, as it tied for last place among all Wednesday programs for female demos.

Runs of HILLBILLY HAND FISHIN', TANKED and SWAMP WARS were slotted among Thursday's specials and series blocks. The night was essentially  flat with last year and last month in demos, while HH were down by modest double-digit percentages.

TANKED became more ubiquitous on Fridays, filling ten of the twelve program slots this month, and leading to strong increases in Women over last year, while retaining the Men from RIVER MONSTERS-centric 2010. This is a significant improvement over the last two months, which experienced significant year-to-year declines. Numbers were up slightly over August.

After a block of FINDING BIGFOOT on the first Saturday of the month, domestic animal series and specials returned, driven by TOO CUTE  and BAD DOG! Female demos were up significantly over last year,with Men essentially flat. Men were down from last month though, with Women demos up modestly.

While Sundays earned the most significant annual  growth among Male demos, numbers were down by 1/3 across the board from last month, when RIVER MONSTERS and HILLBILLY HANDFISHIN' dominated this night.

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."

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