Discovery Analysis - April 2010



* Bold denotes programming change


Schedule has shifted from a consistent slate of series to one that features several nights mixed with single hours, series repeats, and specials.  Tuesdays have been the anchor night of late, using DEADLIEST CATCH as a springtime anchor with other series (SWORDS, COLONY) to follow.  Wednesdays have alternated MYTHBUSTERS and MAN VS WILD as the anchor.  Thursdays have featured a variety of series, including half hours, although none have settled there permanently.  Mondays and Fridays offer a variety of series repeats and loose titles with little to no consistency on a week to week basis.  Saturdays tend to push mini-stacks of the best performing series throughout the week.  Sunday recently returned to its roots, becoming the home for premiere specials and highlighted encores.


Live Primetime Ratings Comparison /April 2010 vs. April 2009  (% Change)




Monday 8-11pm




Tuesday 8-11pm




Wednesday 8-11pm




Thursday 8-11pm




Friday 8-11pm




Saturday 8-11pm




Sunday 8-11pm




MTWTFSS 8-11pm




Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

After a bounce in March, April fell back.  As we saw in March, LIFE's Sunday premieres carried the network, balancing out a weakening rest of schedule.  Total audience was up, but target men in both age breaks were down.  Women as a percentage of the audience are continuing to grow, mostly a result of the men dropping out.  Younger women were roughly 38% of the audience in April.  Median age was up from last year and flat versus March.  Fourth consecutive month the network's gotten older on year ago numbers. 

LIFE was the shining moment in April.  Simply put, the Sunday premieres kept the schedule from experiencing one heck of a fall.  All seven premieres landed in the Top 10 telecasts of the month.  The night was up an astounding 70% in adults over last year, the only night to gain over that time frame.  Women flocked to the series.  While the net goes almost 65% male most of the time, LIFE's audience was 45% plus female.  One of the drawbacks of so much popularity:  Sunday night was the oldest night of the week.  Nevertheless, a good trade-off. 

Repeats of LIFE weren't so strong on Thursdays.  All four weeks in April featured three hour repeat stacks of the landmark series.  Target adults were off the net averages by 25-30%.  With such a massive showing for the premieres, repeats tend to fall quickly in a short window.  An encore exhibition was announced for sister network Animal Planet in the summer.  Let's see if some rest can regenerate interest. 

So that's LIFE.  How about the rest of the schedule?  One bright spot was the return of DEADLIEST CATCH for its 6th season.  The groundbreaking series from Thom Beers' Original Productions premiered on the third Tuesday with record numbers per the network's press.  In fact, it was the highest rated telecast for the month, even greater than LIFE.  Unfortunately, the challenges of the new year came in the second week.  In Season 5 last year, week two of DEADLIEST CATCH was flat versus premiere week, losing almost zero viewers.  This year, not so.  Following up the record premiere, week two was down 25-30%.  Fading interest or bad week?  We'll see in May.

Part of the channel's recent Upfront announcement, CONSTRUCTION INTERVENTION actually debuted in April in the valued lead-out slot from DEADLIEST CATCH.  Numbers were good for the premiere, and decent for the second week.  Both weeks were measureably above net averages for the month.  Having DEADLIEST as your lead doesn't hurt.  Remains to be seen if this one can hold an audience on it's own.  We're not too sure. 

STEPHEN HAWKINGS UNIVERSE filled up the final Sunday rather admirably once LIFE was over.  The physics and science genius drew well above the norm with men, although the women didn't join them.  Best news is that the second hour held the first hour lead-in and even improved on it. 

MYTHBUSTERS had a full month of premieres, all of which did OK.  Repeats not so much and the series finished down versus last year by 10%.  Similar story for AMERICAN LOGGERS.  Couple of premieres mixed with repeats were down 15% in target men.  Former stalwart DIRTY JOBS had a few repeats scattered around the schedule with little success.  Numbers were down 15-20% from last year.   


The last few months haven't been so great, but this is still one of the best brands in the business.  The most households, the widest global reach, the greatest prestige.  They'll commission it, co-produce it, acquire it, license it, merchandise it, take it around the name it.  However, the bulk of the effort has shifted to global commissions.  CEO David Zaslav's desire to push product outwards to DCI's regions has come to fruition the last couple of years and we expect it will continue in full force in the coming months.

With 2010 comes a new year and another round of new management. Longtime veteran Clark Bunting returns to the channel after a six year hiatus and he's bringing management of diginet Science Channel with him.  Too early to know what impact the change will have editorially, but expect change.  Discovery's public announcements have emphasized a desire to strengthen the core brand.  Translate that into a return to the high profile specials that have gone missing the last few years. Still, be selective when pitching just the brand.  

Personnel changes have been expedient and numerous.  New heads of Current Series and Specials have been named.  A new Programming head has been brought over from one of the digital channels.  The Los Angeles development team has departed and replacements were just announced.  Also pending is a new Marketing chief. 

It's fairly easy to predict a commissioning strategy that will key on timeslot needs more so than the past.  Keep an eye on CU's grid for insights on what timeslots prove to have the largest appetite. It's probably safe to assume that Science Channel will start to operate more openly as a feeder network to the mothership.  If getting into Discovery proves a challenge, try Science.  You might find it to be an easier route to the flagship.

Budgets are in the $250,000+ range per hour for prime for the flagship.  Series can be  $150k or more per half-hour.  It varies according to their level of financing, international interest, whether they commission it or not, and a multitude of other negotiable and non-negotiable factors. 

At the Discovery Upfront, the channel announced an ambitious slate of new programming for the 2010-2011 season.  Among the highlights were the specials CURIOUSITY: THE QUESTIONS OF LIFE, HUMAN PLANET, EARTH FROM SPACE, REIGN OF THE DINOSAURS, THE RISING: REBUILDING GROUND ZERO, ENGINEERING THE IMPOSSIBLE, and the return of SHARK WEEK.  New series included WORST CASE SCENARIO, hosted by Bear Grylls, and the already premiered CONSTRUCTION INTERVENTION.  Continuing series included DEADLIEST CATCH, DIRTY JOBS, MAN VS. WILD, MYTHBUSTERS, STORM CHASERS, and THE COLONY.