National Geographic Channel Analysis - July 2011

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JULY 2011 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 (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.

JULY 2011 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

Live Primetime Ratings Comparison /July 2011 vs. July 2010  (% Change)

HH

P18-49

P25-54

Monday 8-11pm

0%

-18%

-11%

Tuesday 8-11pm

43%

55%

46%

Wednesday 8-11pm

7%

13%

0%

Thursday 8-11pm

33%

50%

25%

Friday 8-11pm

37%

50%

56%

Saturday 8-11pm

23%

36%

23%

Sunday 8-11pm

6%

12%

10%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

15%

15%

13%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

NGC showed solid gains in July, boosted by  Best of NGC Week  (July 4-10) which contained 10 of NGC's top offerings for the survey.  Every night besides Monday grew over last year; compared to June, each night enjoyed double-digit growth in HH and demos.

New series INDESTRUCTIBLES debuted impressively on the first Sunday of the survey, but quickly lost momentum as the month wore on.  New episodes of HARD TIME on Tuesday suffered the same fate, although the series finished the month as the #2 series on NGC, just behind INDESTRUCTIBLES.

Without new episodes of TABOO,  Monday's anthology-driven lineup declined from last July, but was up modestly from last month. Highlights included the mini-series WHEN ROME RULED as well as a night covering various aspects of the Nazi regime, all under the NAT GEO PRESENTS umbrella.

Tuesday showed the strongest growth for A18-49 for the second month in a row. The combination of ALASKA STATE TROOPERS, running under NAT GEO PRESENTS  at 8p, with two episodes of HARD TIME nearly doubled delivery of older Men from last year, while increasing M18-49 by a nearly-as-impressive 70%. Men were up over 50% from last month as well.

INSIDE ran 8-10pm Wednesdays for the entire survey, with the exception of Best of NGC Week, which feature a night of LOCKED UP ABROAD episodes.  LOCKED UP ABROAD generally topped its lead-in and was NGC's #3 series for July. This lineup earned the second weakest annual growth for A18-49 for the entire week. Growth in the 20%-30% range for Women demos fueled growth over June.

Thursday's Science-themed block decisively broke a string of twelve straight months year-to-year demo losses with a boost from new series INDESTRUCTIBLES running six times in the NGC SCI-TECH anthology. The Coca Cola episode of  ULTIMATE FACTORIES, running under the same anthology, was the top Thursday offering this month. The night remains the weakest night of the week in delivering A18-49,  however.

By changing to a pure anthology play, Fridays were revamped for the fourth month in a row, with NGC FRIDAY now filling most weeks at 8, 9 and 10pm. The only night which delivered well consisted of Natural History specials, soon to depart NGC to appear exclusively on Nat Geo Wild. Episodes of HOOKED  and new series FLEA MAN playing in the NGC FRIDAY anthology earned approximately half the prime HH average rating for June. The night as a whole was down modestly in men from May, but up a similar percentage for female viewers.

Saturday was flat for younger demos from last  year, but up in HH and A25-54.  The night as a whole aged significantly from June 2010 with the Median Age up 10% year-to-year. A special entitled COWBOYS OF THE SEA: THE LONG HAUL running under the SUPER SATURDAY umbrella was the top performer this night.

Sunday was down somewhat compared with last year and last month. A night of LOCKED UP ABROAD episodes did well, as did a couple of specials dealing with Narcotics.

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.

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