Discovery Analysis - May 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 /May 2010 vs. May 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

Another tough month for DCI's flagship service.  Numbers were down mid-single digits in most demos, up to the 11% in drop in Adults 18-49. Two year trends were down as well, with audiences falling from May 2008 to May 2009 and again in May 2010. 

Median age was up 7% over last year and a couple of points from April.  5th consecutive month we've seen that figure rise and 3rd consecutive month at an all time high for Cable U tracking.  Only two nights, Monday and Wednesday, fall below the median age number, both of which are driven by MYTHBUSTERS.  The ageing up continues.

Nevertheless, a couple of bright spots still exist.  Start with DEADLIEST CATCH.  After record breaking numbers on the season premiere, the series settled down quickly, but still dominates the schedule's landscape.  Five weeks of premieres made up the top five rated telecasts for the month.  Can't do better than that.  Year on year numbers were down, notably the younger men, and flat to April.  Thursday's 10pm repeats were slightly above average.  Mini-stacks on the Saturday and Sunday of Memorial Day weekend both underperformed the monthly averages.

The power of the lead-in played out for SWAMP LOGGERS.  Following DEADLIEST CATCH on Tuesdays in May worked big time.  Despite all repeats, the five exhibitions took spots 6-10 on the Top 20 list, only behind its benefactor.  Men were up almost 20% from April's airings.

MYTHBUSTERS was down high single digits in the target demo versus last year.  Still, it outperformed the network averages for the month by a wide margin.  As noted previously, it drives the youth movement with its Wednesday premieres and does admirable job on the same front with Monday repeats.

Unfortunately, MYTHBUSTERS remains somewhat of an island on Wednesday.  The 8pm lead-in, WEIRD OR WHAT, struggles in both target demos.  Lead-out series, WORST-CASE SCENARIO, fared a little better.  Based on the book of the same name, WORST CASE served up the average on 18-49, but fell down on the 25-54 bracket.  Not horrible by any means, but a big dip out of MYTHBUSTERS.

Sunday nights were relatively steady across the month.  Breaking out in the first week was the conclusion of the STEPHEN HAWKING mini-series.  Debuting in April with strong numbers, the third episode also drew very well in May.  The rest of the month included two weeks of DEADLIEST CATCH and one week of MYTHBUSTERS.   Numbers were OK, but the night could use some fresh programming as summer approaches.

Friday night was the lowest night of the week, but one of the few nights headed in the right direction.  Target adults 25-54 were up a few points on the back of inventory repeats.

Couple of timely specials on Thursdays underperformed for the month.  VOLCANO focused on the Iceland volcano that stopped air traffic across Europe in April.  ROBIN HOOD with OLLY was timed to the theatrical release of the movie.   


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.