Discovery Analysis - July 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 /July 2010 vs. July 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

July brings some pretty good news if you're following the numbers.  This was the strongest month in over three years in every demo.  Viewers are up 18%.  Target demos are up 20% overall, with near 30% increases in women.  Median age is essentially flat which is good considering the aging up that's been happening the last few months.   All of this good news comes courtesy of a single series:  DEADLIEST CATCH.

DEADLIEST CATCH wrapped up it's 5th season in July with stellar numbers.  The death of Captain Phil garnered tons of attention on and off the air and mostly positive comments on the producer's handling it within the series. 

DEADLIEST just dominated the rest of the schedule.  Almost 1/3 of Prime Time was devoted to the series.  Tuesday night premieres were head and shoulders above everything else in the ratings, jumping 70-80% over last year.  Repeats on Thurday, Saturday, and Sunday were understandably lower, in some case below Prime average, but not enough to pull the property out of the #1 spot for the month.  DEADLIEST was so overwhelmingly dominant that it raised the entire month's programming up 50%.  Take Tuesday out of the mix and we're looking at a very different network.

Looking at the rest of the schedule, there's not much to get excited about.  Every other night is below average.

Monday's ULTIMATE CAR BUILD OFF was just OK.  Companion series HEARTLAND THUNDER  was yanked from the schedule in the 2nd week for low numbers.  Wednesday had premieres of MYTHBUSTERS hold it's own.  Repeats of DIRTY JOBS in the 10pm slot were well under average.

Thursday's combination of RIVER MONSTERS and DEADLIEST CATCH repeats was mixed.  MONSTERS at 9pm was fine, but 8pm airings not so much.  DEADLIEST repeats at 10pm were better in the back half of the month, likely a halo from the big finish to the series on Tuesdays.

Friday's survival night.  The series debut of MAN WOMAN WILD was very weak.  The second episode much stronger.  The introduction of a female character didn't appear to draw woman to the series.  Men comprised almost 2/3 of the audience.  DUAL SURVIVAL followed its June debut with a strong sophomore month.  One of the few titles not named DEADLIEST CATCH to garner above average numbers in the key demos. 

Saturday and Sunday were loaded with mini-stacks of inventory series.  The usual suspects: DEADIEST CATCH and MYTHBUSTERS.  One new mini-series premiered on a Saturday/Sunday in midmonth: POWER THE FUTURE.  When a network debuts a new series in the middle of the summer on a Saturday night, it's says something.  In this case, it said the four lowest rated telecasts of the month by a large margin.  Don't expect a sequel on this one.

DEADLIEST CATCH will be absent in August, but the month brings SHARK WEEK.  If the sharks can fill the void with half the numbers of CATCH, the figures should look pretty good by the end of the summer.


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 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.