National Geographic Channel Analysis - January 2010

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JANUARY 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 (ALASKA STATE TROOPERS) and time-honored (DOG WHISPERER). Stunt scheduling utilzes multiple runs of popular series or thematically similar specials slotted to maximize audience flow.

Monday and Tuesday are anthology driven, while Wednesday is crime-oriented. Thursday remains Science & Technology-themed with the debut of ULTIMATE FACTORIES at 8p in October. 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.

JANUARY 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

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

   HH

P18-49

P25-54

Monday 8-11pm

19%

12%

21%

Tuesday 8-11pm

-11%

-20%

-21%

Wednesday 8-11pm

-6%

-11%

-10%

Thursday 8-11pm

-8%

NA

-25%

Friday 8-11pm

-20%

 -42%

-44%

Saturday 8-11pm

-7%

-42%

-44%

Sunday 8-11pm

-24%

-31%

-33%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

-9%

-21%

-18%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

NGC's consistent year-to-year growth throughout the latter half of 2009 (with the exception of October) seems to have ended. January's double-digit demo losses arrive on the heels of a December which had 4 of 7 nights showing double-digit annual decreases in HH and demos. While January was up by modest double-digits over last month, only Monday nights showed growth over January 2009. Declines were spread across all programs, as the performance of the top-5 series in January declined by 15% from the previous month.

The DOG WHISPERER Week stunt which ran M-F/8-9p during New Year's week basically equalled NGC's monthly HH and demo average.

The only night to grow year-to-year was Monday, which benefited from the premiere of BORDER WARS. The new series offers an original episode at 9p, leading out of a repeat of the previous week's premiere episode at 8p (which airs under the NAT GEO PRESENTS anthology umbrella.) The male-appeal series launched as the top-rated offering for the month for HH and demos, and nearly tripled the Prime average for Male demos.

The two Tuesday's which stood out in January each benefited from a consistent nightly theme from 8-11p:  one night offering National Parks-themed fare, the other concentrating on terrorism and Iran. Despite these efforts, the night overall was down by double-digits compared to last month and last year.

Wednesdays featured three hours of INSIDE for most of the month, now that ALASKA STATE TROOPERS has gone into hiatus. The series TABOO returned at 10p for the last two weeks of the month, and found particular favor among W25-54, who were up over 50% compared to December 2009 on this night.

Science-themed Thursday was down from last month and last year. No particular offering stood out this month.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday's annual losses were sharp in both key demos, although compared to December 2009, Sunday was up by 1/3 in both. The WHALE WHO ATE JAWS episode of WILD scored particularly well one Saturday, while several episodes of TABOO appearing in NAT GEO PRESENTS continued that series' hot Thursday performance on Sunday nights. Another episode of NAT GEO PRESENTS, entitled INSIDE COCAINE SUBMARINES nearly doubled the nights average HH and demo ratings.

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 is replacing Fox Reality Channel in 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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