Discovery Analysis - December 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 /December 2010 vs. December 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

2010 ends just about where it started.  Overall, 2010 was down 3% for Adults 18-49 and 2% for Adults 25-54.  The summer peaks from Captain's Phil's death on DEADLIEST CATCH and SHARK WEEK were offset by the channel's two lowest months in years in the Fall.  After the installment of a new management team at the beginning of the year, audience levels remain essentially flat.  A major new slate has been introduced for January that could bring a new franchise or two.  And more changes at the top levels of the channel were announced just weeks ago.  Impact is still unknown, but we'll keep watching.

December was effectively flat with last year.  Monday and Friday nights were up, both a result of newly introduced programming.  Tuesday suffered with anchor series and Saturday was down with specials.  Median inches up again just a notch.

Most positive news comes on Friday.  GOLD RUSH ALASKA is showing signs of being a bona fide hit.  The night has been good to the tough job genre so this one fits well.  #1 series for the month, with all four episodes occupying the top 4 spots for highest rated telecasts.  Caution though.  We're already seeing a number of repeats and Prime Time stacks peppered across the schedule.  As the series reputation builds, too much exposure too early could also drain it.

AMERICAN CHOPPER repeats off TLC continue to be the elixir for Monday nights.  Night was up significantly over last year.  Thursday night repeats and a marathon over the Christmas weekend didn't perform as well.

Last month we noted AUCTION KINGS picking up steam.  Well, it kept going in December.  Series is up about 10% over November for the key demos.  Wasn't enough to keep Tuesday from falling off in a big way, but it certainly tried.  This one's becoming a quiet anchor on the schedule.

DIRTY JOBS could be done.  Much like an athlete that won't retire, this one may have stuck around just a little too long.  Compared to last year, the property was down 20%.  Premieres outdo nework averages only half the time and repeats struggle mightily.  A long ways from the number one performances it brought to the schedule very week.

MYTHBUSTERS  hangs in there.  Premieres are good.  Repeats are weaker.  Blowing out Sunday night for three weeks didn't bring in stellar numbers, but they were just enough to make the night on par with network averages.

ODDITIES appears to have fallen out of the schedule.  A few premieres were scattered around the month, but with little audience.  Series finishes as the one of the lowest rated on the schedule for the month.  Heavily promoted BREWMASTERS was yanked as well.  Running off a few episodes on Thursdays resulted in low numbers.  Not expecting another season of fresh microbrews any time soon.

Saturdays were interesting.  Effectively in a tie for the lowest rated night of the week with Thursday, It was off 15-25% from last year, although slightly up from November.  Loaded with one-up titles, the night comes across as the place for exiled programs on the grid.  FINDING AMELIA, TEN COMMANDMENTS OF THE MAFIA, and GET OUT ALIVE all landed on Saturdays, some after being shifted from another day of the week.  None of them drew anything close to network average.


After a strong summer, numbers have been going in the opposite direction.  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.  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 came a new year and another round of new management. Longtime veteran Clark Bunting returned to the channel after a six year hiatus and he's bringing management of diginet Science Channel with him.  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.  Ratings still pay the bills and they're not going to compromise on that front.

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.  A new Marketing chief is the latest addition, along with a new COO.

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 CONSTRUCTION INTERVENTION, both of which premiered in 2nd Quarter, 2010, well ahead of the actual upfront season.  Continuing series included DEADLIEST CATCH, DIRTY JOBS, MAN VS. WILD, MYTHBUSTERS, STORM CHASERS, and THE COLONY.