Discovery Analysis - October 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 /October 2010 vs. October 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

Ouch.  September was tough.  October was even tougher.  Numbers were down in both key adult demos and median age continued to move up.  October becomes the lowest rated month for target adults in the four years we've been tracking the numbers.  Last month we predicted a bumpy ride ahead.  Appears it's going to be more turbulent than we expected.

Bright spot?  Try Friday night.  Survival series have been the anchor.  That continues to some extent with LES STROUD, but he was down 15% from September.  A new season of SWAMP LOGGERS appears to been the new star of the night.  LOGGERS was slightly above network averages and well ahead for the night.

Needing some help on Mondays, the network featured repeats of AMERICAN CHOPPER, a borrowed series from sister network TLC.  Teutel and friends garnered above average numbers for the last two weeks of the month, although not quite enough to keep the night from losing viewers September. 

COLONY wrapped its second season on Tuesdays with a solid performance.  New series AUCTION KINGS took over the 10pm timeslot later in the month, kicking off with some decent numbers.  The half hour, back to back episodes become the latest entry in the world of cable's pawn/auction/antique category. 

Wednesdays had premieres of long running stalwart MYTHBUSTERS.  It showed some very strong improvement over September, but was down 20% compared to last year.  STORM CHASERS comes back with heavy promotion.  It pays off with two weeks of very good audiences.  Week 3 wasn't as great, putting CHASERS on par with last year's performances.

Thursday was a challenge.  Several late schedule changes kept the viewers guessing.  PITCHMEN was yanked and replaced with inventory repeats, with the night finishing below average for the month.  On the bright side, the moves managed to keep the night on par with September so there's something to build on in the coming weeks.

Sundays featured an encore of last April's highly acclaimed and highly rated LIFE.  Following the patterns of the past, the second time around wasn't as rewarding.  Target audiences ranged from below average to well below average.  David Attenborough was featured in the two hour special FIRST LIFE late in the month.  Appears that viewers appetite for the topic had been sated as the special was off network averages by a wide margin. 

There are a few new properties slated for November.  Combined with a couple of series shifting over from TLC, the schedule will have some fresh material with which to stop the bleeding.  The recent announcement that series will be moved over to Sundays should help as well.  Historically, as temperatures drop and Christmas nears, the channel's audience goes up.  Moves the threshold for improvement up with it so success is more likely measured against this month than year on year figures.


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.