(Updated as of April 20, 2009)
MARCH 2009 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE
TOP PRIMETIME SHOWS:
GANGLAND, HOW THE EARTH WAS MADE, UFO HUNTERS, THE UNIVERSE, MONSTERQUEST, HISTORY SUNDAY, AX MEN
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 to MARCH:
Monday - entire night is overhauled; inventory at 8pm; BATTLES BC debuts at 9pm; AX MEN returns for a second season at 10pm;
Tuesday - repeats of previous week's HOW THE EARTH WAS MADE are slotted at 9pm;
Thursday - WARRIORS premieres at 10pm, replacing CITIES OF THE UNDERWORLD
Friday - repeats of BATTLES BC take over at 10pm
Sunday repeats of AX MEN run at 10pm
** March 2nd - AX MEN (Season 2)
** March 9th - BATTLES BC
** March 12th - WARRIORS
** March 29th - PREDATOR X
APRIL AND BEYOND
** April 21st - LIFE AFTER PEOPLE
** May 31st - ICE ROAD TRUCKERS (Season 3)
** May 31st - EXPEDITION AFRICA: STANLEY & LIVINGSTONE
YEAR AGO/BIG PICTURE:
Similar to last year, March improved measurably on February in the key male demos. Men 18-49 and 25-54 were up 4% and 5% respectively over February. Unfortunately, the increases weren't quite enough to keep pace with year ago numbers for March. Compared to last year, the month was down 5-8% for men, the only demographic that really counts for History. Last March saw the debut of AX MEN to some spectacular numbers. This year, the second season premiere was fine, but couldn't keep up (see below for more detail). The drop was significant enough to explain most of the year on year decreases across the schedule. Thursday and Friday dropped slightly, while the rest of the week was on par with last year.
Looking ahead, April typically begins the seasonal fade into the summer. Matching last year's ratings is easily doable. Our only concern is that the one announced series, LIFE WITH PEOPLE, might not be enough to energize the schedule without help from the veteran series and those are vulnerable right now. The new series introduced in March were solid, but not breakout. History shows that they'll experience a normal fade in the later weeks.
MARCH 2009 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Monday was the big night thanks to the aforementioned second season premiere of AX MEN. Premieres of the timber harvesting series were very strong. Taking downstream repeats out of the mix, series was the schedule's best rated property for the month. That's the good news. Following the first two premiere week, ensuing premieres dropped significantly in the target male demo. We'll have to see April's numbers, but the trend isn't one that makes programmer's too happy. On the annual comparison front, last year's debut came on a much stronger Sunday night. The shift to Monday has boosted the night, even with the year to year drop on series itself.
Two new series made their entrance this month. BATTLE BC bowed on Monday nights with an episode on Hannibal. Spectacular production values and dramatic recreations make the series unlike anything before it. Seems the audience agreed. Network press touts it as the #1 Monday night series debut in their history. The second week was solid as well, but the third week dropped by 1/3. Episode topic tends to influence the numbers, even with the high production quality. That's the likely case here. Overall, BATTLES BC is off to a good start, but success at this point will be entirely dependent on story selection going forward.
The other debut this month, WARRIORS, had a similar experience. The Thursday night series started reasonably well with an episode on the Mayans pulling a solid male audience. Unfortunately, that was the highlight. Weeks 2 and 3 dropped off the radar, and ended well below the average male delivery. Can't pinpoint the reasons just yet. It's possible the traditional topics appeal to the network's most loyal viewers, but don't offer enough new material to draw those occasional viewers.
Tuesday night's HOW THE EARTH WAS MADE did rather well in premieres, less so in repeats. No surprise with the science/history geology topic, that it was the men 25-54 driving the numbers here. The Loch Ness episode did particuarly well with total viewers. Maybe a pairing with MONSTERQUEST is in the cards?
MONSTERQUEST continues to be a solid performer this month. Each week featured a premiere in the 9pm slot building from the lead-in, and often doing better than UFO HUNTERS at 10pm. Although it was down from last year, MONSTERQUEST had rather nice increases for target men over its February numbers.
GANGLAND doesn't draw the largest audiences, but skews heavily to the target men on Friday nights. A handful of premieres, combined with some repeats, delivered strong enough numbers to retain its status as an anchor series on the schedule.
Two big event specials premiered on Sundays in March, ANCIENT ALIENS and PREDATOR X. PREDATOR X followed a major dinosaur discovery and received strong market support for it's late March premiere date. The result was a good, but not great, performance with male deliveries about 15% above average. ANCIENT ALIENS didn't have the marketing support, but the topic was strong enough to overcome it and outdeliver prime averages by significant numbers. Aliens triumph over dinosaurs in this battle.
ADDITIONAL SHOWS CURRENTLY AIRING:
DECODING THE PAST, MEGA MOVERS, DOGFIGHTS, ENGINEERING AN EMPIRE, BONEYARD