National Geographic Channel Analysis - August 2010

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AUGUST 2010 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:

* Bold denotes programming change

SCHEDULING STRATEGIES:

NGC continues to mix anthologies such as NAT GEO PRESENTS and EXPLORER with series both new (FISH WARRIOR) and time-honored (DOG WHISPERER). Stunt scheduling utilizes multiple runs of popular series or thematically-similar specials slotted to maximize audience flow.

Monday and Tuesday are generally anthology driven, while Wednesday is crime-oriented. Thursday remains Science & Technology-themed; Dog-related series dominate Friday; Saturdays now start with Natural History at 8p and Sundays are anthology slots used for specials, themed stacks and one-offs.

AUGUST 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / August 2010 vs. August 2009  (% Change)

   HH

P18-49

P25-54

Monday 8-11pm

-4%

15%

0%

Tuesday 8-11pm

-14%

-23%

-13%

Wednesday 8-11pm

-14%

-18%

-6%

Thursday 8-11pm

-24%

-42%

-33%

Friday 8-11pm

-13%

 -20%

-8%

Saturday 8-11pm

-17%

-18%

-23%

Sunday 8-11pm

-27%

-27%

-26%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

-14%

-21%

-18%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

NGC experienced its eighth consecutive month of year on year losses in August, with Thursday and Sunday particularly hard hit. Demo losses were driven by female viewers, whose declines doubled those of their male counterparts. August was down modestly from July, with month-to-month losses also driven by women.

Monday's usual 3-hour block of NAT GEO PRESENTS was reduced to a single hour for August, as 9pm FISH WARRIOR and 10pm MONSTER FISH were slotted for four weeks. Although the 9-11pm aquatic theme was not reciprocated among the mixed bag of subjects covered in the 8pm lead-in, viewership grew steadily from hour to hour each night, giving the network it's only year-to-year demo growth for the month. Female viewers were down sharply from last month.

Tuesday's annual and monthly demo losses were also spurred by female viewers.  Even the Mystery theme of the final week's anthologies failed to attract the demo.

Wednesday's modest losses against last year were cushioned somewhat by slight growth in male demos over July. Female demos continued to slide compared to last month and August 2009.

A repeat of "The Real Midnight Express" from July was the top offering for INSIDE on Wednesday.

Thursday suffered the steepest year-to-year losses of any night for the second month in a row, this time driven by both demos. Perhaps more troubling for this science themed, male-driven night, male demos were down by nearly 1/3 from July, despite a schedule that remained consistent from month to month.

Fridays in August continued July's theme at 10pm of Archaeological Mysteries and Paranormal fare.  This led to modest growth for the night in older demos from last month, but Friday still declined across-the-board from last year.

Saturday was down against last year for HH and all demos, especially among younger women and older adults. HH and demo losses from July were in a similar range.

Similarly, Sunday's declines were driven by W18-49, who were down by nearly half from August 2009, with W25-54 off by 1/3.  The premiere of the special AND MAN CREATED DOG was the #1  offering for Sunday (as well as the month overall) doubling the Prime HH average in this airing.

CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:

More theme nights and more series (or series-like) nights.  There's more of a predictability to the schedule than in the past...less reliance on a lot of one-offs.

Here are some tips for those of you on the production side:

Producers should not narrow themselves to the Travel and Natural History dimension of National Geographic, the Magazine. NGC has a very limited editorial relationship with the Magazine, and no current appetite for straightforward Travel series or specials. Look well beyond...and get to know their very diverse schedule.  Science drives it as much as anything. New insights to subjects that have been covered before are welcome. New research and discoveries, as well as new takes on traditional subject matter are welcome.

The key here for originals is a fully formed idea with all the sources (as credible as can be, because fact-checking is as thorough as it should be) and a story arc with new information along the way.  Key subject areas remain:  science, natural history, exploration, space, expeditions and history.  But if you thought crime was going down under the new regime, you'd be hard pressed to find evidence of it.

Very little on the acquired side, but they will take a look on anything that fits into their remit. 

While we've mentioned their need for series before, the recent ratings successes means more additional seasons for existing skeins (LOCKED UP, HOOKED) and less need for new series.  Event specials are always in favor...not live or anything, but 1- or 2-hour Blue Chip docs.  They still want "em.  The key is that there must be enough "substance" throughout the program to justify its length. NGC prides itself on "time spent viewing," so substantive information and action throughout is key to their evaluation of new projects. Regardless, it's the ol' "we want new info on familiar topics" that rules the day. "Big science" is at the top of their "needs" list.

Blue-chip Natural History will begin to migrate to NG Wild, which replaced Fox Reality Channel in March, 2010. The ongoing success of DOG WHISPERER has led to similar appeal series about domestic animals - that sub-genre should remain viable for some time to come.

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