National Geographic Channel Analysis - June 2011

Publish date:


* 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.

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.


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




Monday 8-11pm




Tuesday 8-11pm




Wednesday 8-11pm




Thursday 8-11pm




Friday 8-11pm




Saturday 8-11pm




Sunday 8-11pm




MTWTFSS 8-11pm




Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

For the second month in a row NGC essentially equaled last year's performance  for HH and younger adults, with a slight dip in A25-54. Looking a bit deeper, we see that W18-49 were up 25%  from June 2010, with NAT GEO PRESENTS episodes dealing with fringe cultural groups (e.g. PRISON WOMEN, AMISH ON BREAK,) finding particular favor with that demo. Episodes of LOCKED UP ABROAD  and TABOO running under the NG PRESENTS umbrella on Sunday also did well with younger women.  HH and demos were essentially flat with last month.

NGC's key scheduling stunt this survey was the one day Memorial Day Stack,  featuring two military specials. The night finished 38% above NGC's Prime average HH Rating for June.

New episodes of TABOO continued in Monday's anthology-driven lineup at 10pm, leading the night to an annual increase of 43% for younger females, although that demo was down by 23% from last month.

Tuesday showed the strongest growth for A18-49, boosted by specials on ancient Rome and the Amish.  Ratings for W18-49 nearly doubled from May 2011.

INSIDE ran 8-10pm Wednesdays for the entire survey, with its 10pm run from May replaced by new episodes of LOCKED UP ABROAD, NGC's top-rated series for June. This lineup earned the second strongest annual growth for A18-49 for the entire week. Episodes of LOCKED UP ABROAD  filled the INSIDE anthology the final two weeks of the survey, and underperformed the one-offs that ran in that hour earlier in the month in the 10-20% range.

Thursday's Science-themed block struggles for viewership, with year-to-year demo losses for the twelfth straight month. The night strains particularly to attract A18-49, and is usually the weakest night of the week in delivering that demo. HH and demos were up by modest double-digit percentages from May, 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.


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.