Discovery Analysis - July 2011

Publish date:


* 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 /July 2011 vs. July 2010  (% Change)




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MTWTFSS 8-11pm




Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

One year ago, DEADLIEST CATCH was chronicling the death of Captain Phil, setting an artificial high that the network was unlikely to match in 2011.  That was definitely the case.  Audiences were down significantly from last year, falling 20-30% in every demographic.

Of greater concern are the long term trends.  For target adults 25-54, this was the lowest rated July since Cable U started tracking the network 6 years ago.  The big brand series are all down from last year.  Newer properties were all down from last month. Shark Week launched the final day of July this year with strong numbers, but  July's gain will be August's loss.  The new management team's slate won't roll out until late Fall.  This could be beginning of a very bump stretch for the channel.

Best programming new of the month came on the final day of July.  Summer staple Shark Week kicked off with the two strongest individual telecasts on the schedule.  GREAT WHITE INVASION and JAWS COMES HOME were off slightly in total viewers from last year's opening night, but came through where it counted.  Adults 18-49 and 25-54 were both up slightly over Shark Week 2010's offering.

After Shark Week, the rest of the schedule had a tough time.  Still, even with the decreases, DEADLIEST CATCH remains at the top of the list.  It was down almost 50% from last year, a drop that was anticipated as noted above.  We're more worried about the nearly 20% fade from June.

SONS OF GUNS was back for a second season with some strong numbers.  No surprise the series about a gun shop drew excellent ratings for men 18-49 and 25-54.

ONE MAN ARMY debuted on Wednesdays at 10pm.  Premieres held steady for its first three weeks, an encouraging sign for programmers.  Scattered repeats on Friday and Saturday underperformed heavily, an indication that this one need that Wednesday lead-in from SONS OF GUNS to make difference.

SURVIVING THE CUT launched on Mondays at 10pm, and struggled out of the gate.  Series was almost 20% below the schedule average for the target demos.

MYTHBUSTERS and DUAL SURVIVAL were down from last year, more so with the A18-49's.  MAN VS WILD was well below average with all new episodes.  More recent series SWORDS, SWAMP LOGGERS, and HOGS GONE WILD were all down 20-30% in the key demos from June.


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.