AUGUST 2011 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:
* Bold denotes programming change
NGC continues to mix anthologies such as NAT GEO PRESENTS and EXPLORER with series both new (FISH WARRIOR) and time-honored (INSIDE). Stunt scheduling utilizes multiple runs of popular series or thematically-similar specials slotted to maximize audience flow.
The Anthologies are utilized to house series as well as one-offs and mini-series. Premiere episodes of series often repeat the following week under one of the anthology umbrellas (e.g NGC FRIDAY) as a lead-in to the current week's new episode of the same series.
Monday and Tuesday are generally anthology driven, while Wednesday is expanding from a crime-oriented focus to other genres that might be considered on the "sensational" side for NGC.
Thursday remains Science & Technology-themed for the present time, while previously Dog-oriented Friday and Natural History-centric Saturday are experimenting with a number of genres, now that all animal-related fare is migrating to sister network Nat Geo Wild. Sundays are anthology slots used for specials, themed stacks and one-offs.
AUGUST 2011 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison /August 2011 vs. August 2010 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
NGC showed solid gains again in August, boosted by the network's exclusive interview with President George W. Bush on his recollections of 9/11. While every night grew over last year; August was essentially flat overall compared to July.
New Friday 8pm series JURASSIC CSI's two debut episodes landed at the bottom of the heap for HH and demo ratings; it was the sole premiering series this month. Crime continues to pay for NGC, as LOCKED UP ABROAD and HARD TIME were the top two series for HH and P18-49.
Keeping with the theme of Crime & Punishment, Monday's top NG PRESENTS offering was entitled LOCKDOWN: BLOOD ON THE BORDER. Year- to-year growth in RP25-54 was also spurred by a repeat of the special DRAIN THE OCEAN, and a run of CIA CONFIDENTIAL, both under the NG PRESENTS umbrella. HH and demos were up by modest double-digit percentages over July.
Tuesday showed the strongest weeknight growth for A18-49 for the third month in a row. The combination of ALASKA STATE TROOPERS, running under NAT GEO PRESENTS at 8p, with two episodes of HARD TIME 9-11pm more than doubled delivery of W18-49 from last year.
Wednesday's INSIDE anthology was usually filled with episodes of TABOO, LOCKED UP ABROAD or BREAKOUT in August, nearly doubling W18-49 from last year, when the poorly received OUTLAW BIKERS mini-series ran 8-9pm on Wednesdays. RW25-54 was up 50% over last year, all female demos were up in the 15-30% range from July. An episode of INSIDE entitled PINT-SIZE PREACHERS found particular favor among female viewers.
Thursday's Science-themed block continued to grow in August, after decisively breaking a twelve-month string of year-to-year demo losses in July with a boost from new series INDESTRUCTIBLES. While INDESTRUCTIBLES repeats did not come close to equaling their debut numbers from July, the specials GIANT CRYSTAL CAVE and MAKE ME SUPERHUMAN helped spur overall growth in the 30-40% range for men demos over August 2010. Delivery was down modestly across-the-board from last month, however.
Two runs of MONSTER FISH ran Friday 9-11pm for the first three weeks of the survey, helping the night to modest HH and demo growth over last year. The new 10pm episodes of MONSTER FISH underwent a significant decline, from week 1- to week 3, with adult demos down 50% in that time frame. The night as a whole was down significantly from July.
Saturday was up modestly in RP18-49 and 25-54, driven by younger women, who were up 50% over 2010. With half the night taken up with HARD TIME episodes running in the SUPER SATURDAY anthology, the Crime and Punishment theme seems to be drawing more women to the network on Saturday.
The interview with President GW Bush, his first detailed recounting of his experiences on 9/11, quintupled NGC's August average Prime rating for HH and demos. Numbers were up in the 40-50% range overall from July, as the specials THE WHALE THAT ATE JAWS and INSIDE THE GREEN BERETS also scored well above Prime average, leading Sunday to the most significant growth of the month.
CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:
In their 2011-12 Upfront presentation National Geographic Channel announced the next evolutionary step in their thematic approach to scheduling. Their new series all fall into one of the following thematic pillars: Adrenaline, Extreme Engineering, Great Quests, News, Preserve Our Planet and Sci-Tech.
Natural History and domestic animal programming will air exclusively on NG Wild.
Here are some tips for those of you on the production side:
An increasing reliance on developing character-driven and documentary series means fewer of the one-offs and miniseries that help fill anthologies such as NAT GEO PRESENTS and SUPER SATURDAY.
Series should have significant takeaway and be about meaningful subjects. Danger and adventure for their own sake won't work for NGC; it must be in the service of a larger purpose. A well-developed first episode is a plus. Increasingly, back-door pilots will run as Specials, with their ratings performance helping determine whether the series goes forward.
Particular areas of interest are Urban Tribes (the Amish, bikers and other fringe sub-cultures,) factual takes on iconic movies (e.g "the 'real' Fast & Furious.")
Specials need to be truly special - the EXPLORER anthology will be increasingly reserved for high-end specials designed to spike viewership. Where EXPLORER was previously filled mostly by National Geographic Television-produced fare, NGC is now encouraging producers to present ambitious one-, two-, and three-hour stand-alone projects for the slot. Pitches for "Unusual Expeditions" are currently in favor.
Now more than ever, NGC is open to taking a more commercial pop-culture oriented approach to new series and specials. 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.
Character-driven series need to have larger-than-life elements to click with Development. "Conflict" and "Stakes" are the other two key requirements for character-driven series 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, engineering, exploration, space, expeditions and history. Crime and law enforcement are also still strong subjects, but the network claims to have no immediate need for more.
There is always an appetite for "Big Science" topics done in an entertaining and contemporary manner. The key is to make it immersive,experiential and most important, easy for the general public to relate to.
On the National Geographic International side, there's an emphasis on History (ancient, WWII, UK), Mystery, Paranormal, Weird People (eg Man with 121 Children), Crime one-offs , Science (universe, geology and some engineering) and Disaster.
Very little on the acquired side, but they will take a look on anything that fits into their remit.
In the US, blue-chip Natural History is migrating 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, so that sub-genre should remain viable for some time.