Discovery Analysis - November 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 /November 2010 vs. November 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

After two of their lowest rated months in a long time, November has the network breathing again.  Credit some veterans properties and borrowed programming from sister networks for stemming the tide.  Total audience was down from last year.  Same for Adults 18-49, but the 25-54 bracket held serve.  Meidan age was also up slightly, continuing a trend we've seen fro several months now.  Comparison to October look better, but that's the norm for the last four years as HUT levels jump and colder weather comes into play. 

Let's start with those veteran series.  MYTHBUSTERS and STORM CHASERS held down the fort on Wednesday night, with both series landing well above network averages for the month.  At least for the premieres as 9pm and 10pm respectively.  As usual, repeats fade a bit but all within the norms of the past.  The story splits when we look to year ago comparisons.  While STORM CHASERS was up 10%  over last year, MYTHBUSTERS was down high single digits. 

The schedule's other veteran was DIRTY JOBS.  The old warhorse proved it's still got plenty of life in it, at least when it comes to new episodes. Tuesday night premieres were more than solid.  Repeats across the schedule, not so much.  The series was moved to 9pm Sunday night in the network's attempt to establish a beachhead there.  Only one week of numbers, but the jury is clearly out.  Numbers were down signficantly from Tuesdays and it was a premiere episode.  Taking everything into account, DIRTY JOBS was down 15% from last year.  Fewer repeats in the future, perhaps?

Now to those borrows.  Biggest one was the PUNKIN CHUNKIN Thanksgiving special.  Originally slated for sister net Science Channel, it ended up being a simulcast on both networks.  For Discovery, it was a resounding success.  Highest rated telecast of the month in every demo break out there, doubling the averages for November.  It's also the single reason for Thursday night's massive jump over last year.  Pull the special out of the mix on Thursday night and the night underperforms the schedule average by 20%.  Thank you Science Channel.

Mondays featured the other prominent borrows on the schedule, albeit with mixed results.  AMERICAN CHOPPER found it's way over from sister network TLC, initially as a borrow and later as a permanent shift.  The series is actually returning to its roots, having launched on Discovery several years ago before moving over to TLC.  CHOPPER's homecoming goes pretty well, pulling above average numbers versus the current schedule.  Unfortunately, the Monday lead-in didn't fare as well.  WRECK CHASERS was initally slated for TLC, but was shifted over to Discovery to take on the 8pm time slot.  Poor performances were the norm and it was yanked from the schedule after just 3 weeks. 

Elsewhere, SWAMP LOGGERS had a pretty good month on Fridays.  ODDITIES died on Thursdays.  AUCTION KINGS began to pick up some speed on Tuesdays.

Finally, after tons of promotion, BREWMASTERS debuted on Sunday night in midmonth.  Sam Calagione travels the world to experience beers of other cultures.  Let's just say he was much more enthusiastic about his experiences than the audience.  BREWMASTERS turns out to be one of the lowest rated series off the month.  We don't see Sam getting to take a second tour. 


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.