National Geographic Channel Analysis - May 2010

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MAY 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 utilizes 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; 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.

MAY 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

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

   HH

P18-49

P25-54

Monday 8-11pm

-11%

0%

0%

Tuesday 8-11pm

-17%

-25%

-29%

Wednesday 8-11pm

-13%

-17%

14%

Thursday 8-11pm

10%

22%

8%

Friday 8-11pm

-26%

 -25%

-25%

Saturday 8-11pm

26%

38%

40%

Sunday 8-11pm

-11%

-15%

-9%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

-4%

-8%

-7%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

Although NGC experienced its fifth consecutive month of year to year losses, declines were in the single digits. May was down from last month be similar margins across the board. Thursday saw modest demo growth from last year, and Saturdays were up sharply.

Looking at the Network skew for A18-49 in Prime, we can see it's gone from  60/40 in favor of Men in May 2009 to 65/35 this month. Not a huge shift, but this is the third month in a row with a similar annual shift, which may bear watching.

May featured a 3-night Extreme Weather stunt Sunday 5/16 - Tuesday 5/18. While the first of three episodes of STORM WORLDS performed well on Sunday, the decision to repeat all three in the same order two nights later seems to have hurt the overall performance of the stunt, which finished 26% below May's Prime average.

A 3-hour block of the anthology series NAT GEO PRESENTS dominates Mondays and was down slightly from last month, while flat in demo delivery from last year. Two runs of CAN IT BE BUILT ran 9-11pm on the final Monday of the survey and significantly out-delivered the night's average ratings for HH and demos.

Tuesday, hurt by the poor performance of the aforementioned STORM WORLDS repeats, was down sharply from last year, while growing by modest double-digits over April.

Wednesday's two-hour block of INSIDE flipped with former 10pm series BREAKOUT in May, which now leads off the night 8-9pm. This shift led to the steepest month-to-month declines of any night in May, especially for female demos.

Science-themed Thursday was up significantly in younger adults from last year, with 10pm entry KNOWN UNIVERSE generally improving on its new WORLD'S TOUGHEST FIXES 9pm lead-in. A special on the Gulf Oil Spill was the top-rated  offering on Thursday.

Replacing Friday's usual domestic animal theme at 10p with Natural History and Anthropology led to the largest year-year HH losses of the month. HH  delivery was also down by 20% from April, but month-to-month demos were flat.

Saturday was up sharply compared to last year and last month, with a variety of series episodes and specials airing under the SUPER SATURDAY anthology umbrellla. By contrast, Sunday was down modestly compared to last year and essentially flat with April. An episode of INSIDE entitled Inside Cocaine Submarines was May's number one telecast for the network for HH and demos.

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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