FEBRUARY 2011 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:
* Bold denotes programming change
Vestiges of the MODERN MARVELS strip still run at 8pm on several nights. Premiere series tend to run at 9pm, with 10pm reserved for encore plays and/or established inventory series. Thematic evenings take over on the weekend. Network tends to run two hour event docs on Saturday. Sundays have become the home for the umbrella theme "American Originals", including ICE ROAD TRUCKERS and AX MEN. Specials can be inserted on Sunday evenings without breaking the flow of the regular schedule. Stability has been the hallmark of the schedule. Multiple episode series and very few changes give the viewer several opportunities to find their programs and develop a pattern of appointment viewing.
FEBRUARY 2011 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison /March 2011 vs. March 2010 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
We're running out of adjectives to describe record breaking numbers. February was unlike any other month in the history of History. Network press calls it the highest rated month ever for the channel. Every major demographic was up by a considerable amount, 20% or more in most cases. Even median age was down just a notch.
The big two are still the big two. AMERICAN PICKERS takes the top spot this month for total viewers and most of the key demos. Three weeks of premieres, all in the top 10, before it took a break at the end of the month. PICKERS was up more than 40% in the key male demos over last year.
PAWN STARS is the guaranteed hit month in and month out. This time it was just behind Monday companion AMERICAN PICKERS for the #2 spot in most key demos. PAWN did keep the #1 spot for the younger men, 18-49. 16 of the top 20 episodes on the channel this month were PAWN STARS eps, including a number of repeats. Series was up 10-20% in the key demos versus last year. Really incredible growth given the already high numbers for comparison.
ONLY IN AMERICA debuted this month with more than four million viewers on opening night. Network labels it their highest rated 1Q series launch ever. Not a bad start Larry the Cable Guy's romp around the country. Week two experienced an expected drop, but week three held steady from that point. Looks like this one is a keeper.
TOP SHOT was back for a second season right on the heels of ONLY IN AMERICA. The Tuesday night premiere grabbed 2.8M viewers per the network, a 33% increase from season one's opening night. In addition, it was TOP SHOT's highest rated episode ever. The next two weeks dropped off, but the overall numbers were more than enough to keep us happy.
AX MEN was in premiere mode, pulling strong numbers on the new episodes Sundays at 9pm. Unfortunately, the 8pm repeats didn't fare as well, keeping the series numbers a little muted for the month.
BRAD MELTZER'S DECODED, SWAMP PEOPLE, ANCIENT ALIENS, and MODERN MARVELS rounded out the schedule with mostly repeats. All of them landed below average figures.
This month's TIME MACHINE specials featured a Big Foot special that drew very well, as did a President's Day special. A Ronald Reagan biography marking his 100th birthday was a little below average on a Wednesday night.
CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:
Series are the name of the game. While the network had many years of steady growth, they were searching for a breakout franchise that could stand above everything else. ICE ROAD TRUCKERS brought just that a couple years ago. Now, PAWN STARS and AMERICAN PICKERS take on the same label, but in a format that can go year round. Hosted series are the big focus of the network. Until recently, formats have been the domain of sister network A&E. Not any more.
Take what is "old" and make it "new" again. This is what keeps History hot with its core audience of males 25-54... Take a current technology or modern day event and link to its origins. Shows on technology are always a draw for History's viewers. Uniting modern science with its origins is what makes up just about all of their tech-based shows. THE UNIVERSE, LIFE AFTER PEOPLE, and now TOP GEAR have all had some pretty good runs on the channel.
History attracts a strong male audience that is otherwise tough to capture by a non-sports network. Male hosts and male experts have obvious appeal to History's viewers and male viewers in general. This also says something about the subject matter and type of content that appeals to this viewer: viewers are already familiar with the general topics covered in the programs, yet are given new information in an entertaining format.
Specials are taking a larger role on the channel. The occasional night opens up for two hour single topic special programs. Saturdays have been dominated by repeats of the same specials, freeing up resources for regular series elsewhere.
Despite rumors to the contrary, "traditional" history remains at the heart of the channel. Ancient times, military topics, archive based, they're all there. The difference now is that they balance the network, but don't dominate it. Shape your program pitches accordingly.