National Geographic Channel Analysis - December 2010

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DECEMBER 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.

DECEMBER 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

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

HH

P18-49

P25-54

Monday 8-11pm

50%

40%

46%

Tuesday 8-11pm

10%

-14%

-6%

Wednesday 8-11pm

42%

38%

40%

Thursday 8-11pm

-14%

-33%

-33%

Friday 8-11pm

8%

-9%

0%

Saturday 8-11pm

0%

-8%

-13%

Sunday 8-11pm

10%

-6%

-10%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

11%

0%

0%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

After eleven consecutive months of year on year losses NGC edged into positive territory in December, thanks in part to the launch of new #1 series WILD JUSTICE at 10pm on Wednesday, and the Monday night premiere of the acclaimed documentary RESTREPO. The month overall declined form November, especially among female demos.

NGC's scheduling stunts this month consisted of a precious gems and gold-oriented XMAS EVE DAY EVENT, followed by a XMAS DAY EVENT with episodes of their Fishing shows. Neither equaled the Prime average, which is a tough goal on these two low-viewing nights.

Monday's 3-hour block of NAT GEO PRESENTS was augmented by a run of the film RESTREPO which deals with the conflict in Afghanistan. More than doubling its NG PRESENTS lead-in's demos, RESTREPO was the highest rated December offering for the network, leading NGC to its biggest annual and monthly gains for the month.

While Tuesday showed modest HH growth over December 2009, demos were down a similar amount continuing annual losses for this night. With over 40% of Tuesday's time-slots dedicated to the Biblical genre, the night's Median Age skyrocketed 10% over last year. This most likely explains how HH ratings grew, while P18-49 and 25-54 declined.

Wednesdays benefited form the debut of WILD JUSTICE, which replaced the second  run of BORDER WARS at 10pm, and grew in demos in the 50% range from week 1 to week 4. Increasing its BORDER WARS lead-in by 21% for P18-49, the new series earned HH ratings 30% above the Prime average in its four airings in December. WILD JUSTICE was also deployed under the SUPER SATURDAY umbrella, albeit to more modest results. The night as a whole was essentially flat with November.

Thursday's science themed block struggled for viewership, with annual losses for the sixth straight month, despite the WWII-themed fare featured on NG PRESENTS at 8pm, replacing the NGC SCI-TECH anthology. The night was also down sharply across the board, compared to November.

On Friday, BORDER WARS replaced NATURE UNTAMED at 9pm and filled the 10p NGC FRIDAY anthology with a second run. While it consistently improved on its 8pm DOG WHISPERER lead-in, the night was undone by the underdelivering XMAS EVE DAY STUNT on the final Friday of the survey. The stunt earned HH ratings that were 33% under the previous three-week average. As a whole, the night was essentially flat with November.

Saturday was down against modestly last year for all demos, but declined sharply from November for HH and all demos. This is especially worrisome since new Wednesday hit WILD JUSTICE filled most of the anthology slots this night.

Sunday, like Tuesday grew in HH ratings while declining in key demos. This night also grew in Median Age (+11%) over last year. A night featuring two runs of LOCKDOWN followed by INSIDE COCAINE SUBMARINES was the high point for the month.

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.

Since several recently-launched series have not met the threshold for renewal (including DOGTOWN, FIGHT SCIENCE, and RESCUE INK UNLEASHED,)  there is a need for 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 has largely migrated 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.

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