Discovery Analysis - August 2011



* 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 (DIRTY JOBS) 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 have recently returned to gearhead with the shift of AMERICAN CHOPPER from TLC.  Fridays have risen to the top spot with adventure and survival content.  Saturdays and Sundays tend to push mini-stacks of the best performing series throughout the week.


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

We predicted the network could be in for a bumpy ride in the coming months and it appears that ride is underway.  Audiences were down for the 3rd month in a row, with significant drops again in August.   Both key demos were down nearly 20%, with losses being spread equally amongst men and women.  Further, median age was up over last year, a sign that the annual SHARK WEEK didn't bring as many young viewers as we've seen in prior years.

SHARK WEEK actually kicked off on the final day of  July, taking a pretty good performance with it.  The remaining five days of SHARK WEEK was solid, putting most of the premieres in the channel's top 20 for the month.  Still, this year's event wasn't able to match up to last year's record numbers and the impact was felt across the schedule.  ROGUE SHARKS and SUMMER OF THE SHARK were top individual performers, both on the Monday night.  Weakest links in the SHARK WEEK chain were the slate of repeats on Friday night.

Elsewhere on the series front, SONS OF GUNS was the top performer on the regular schedule.  Wednesday premieres were strong, with the 8pm repeats much weaker.  A Saturday stack struggled as well.  Keep up those premieres.

Likewise with AUCTION KINGS.  New episodes ran back to back on Tuesdays at 9pm with above average ratings in the key demos.  8pm repeats were down.

DIRTY MONEY followed AUCTION KINGS on Tuesdays, but couldn't hold the lead.  All new episodes consistently lost ground, with only one of the 10:30 episodes keeping the block stable.

ONE MAN ARMY had a promising start in July, but it appears to have faded quickly.  While August ratings were stable to July, the drop from the SONS OF GUNS lead-in was becoming a liability.  ARMY was yanked from the schedule the last week in August.

Bear Grylls had a rough August with viewers.  New episodes of MAN VS WILD on Fridays at 9pm were well below average as the series was down more than 40% from last year.  Bear was given a vacation the last week of the month, with a SECRET SERVICE one-up plugging the hole.  No word on when MAN VS WILD will be back on the schedule.

SURVIVING THE CUT also struggled on Fridays, but no schedule changes here.  Premiere episodes were down more than 50% from last year's performances.

Marking the 10th anniversary of 9/11, RISING: REBUILDING GROUND ZERO premiered on the last Thursday of the month.  The three hour event built throughout the night, doing very well with the core demos.

CURIOSITY, the landmark, five year initiative launched in early August with a much publicized episode on Stephen Hawking and the exist of God.   Despite the heavy marketing and press campaign, the debut episode was about 10% below the monthly schedule averages.  The follow-up roundtable hosted by NBC News' David Gregory dropped another 20% from there.  Subsequent episodes of CURIOSITY struggled to find an audience, with only the episode on Sex hitting network averages.  Aliens/Extraterrestrial life and Titanic episodes were way down on the charts.


After a strong summer last year, numbers went in the opposite direction to end 2010.  However, it's 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.  Note that 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.

2011.  Another new year, another shift in the management.  TLC General Manager Eileen O'Neill was bumped up to Group President and now has overview over Discovery Channel as well.  Changes are already underway.  TLC's COO and Communications SVP have added the same role at Discovery Channel.  Closer to the creative side, Nancy Daniels moved over from TLC to take over the top spot in Production and Development for the flagship channel.  Top programmer Kevin Bennett has been moved out with a replacement yet to be named.  Shifts in editorial direction have yet to be announced, but we would expect to see changes soon.

Oversight of the Science Channel has been partitioned off to another Group President, to be combined with Animal Planet.  Expect the channel's role as a feeder network for programming to slow down.  Likewise, we anticipate fewer Discovery series to migrate over to Discovery after their initial runs.