Travel Channel Analysis - April 2010

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APRIL 2010 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:

* Bold denotes programming change

SCHEDULING STRATEGIES:

The schedule is built around a handful of key series at 9pm or 10pm, complemented by repeats of the same on the same night.  Monday features ANTHONY BOURDAIN and ANDREW ZIMMERN BIZARRE FOODS.  Wednesday is MAN VS FOOD, and Friday is GHOST ADVENTURES.  The remaining nights feature an occasional series such as 101 TASTIEST PLACES TO CHOW DOWN or SAMANTHA BROWN, but the overwhelming majority of the timeslots are filled with single hour programs.  Thematic stacks and diverse topics, premieres and repeats, they're all mixed throughout the one up portion of the schedule.  It remains one of the few non-fiction based network schedules with a large number of one up programs in basic cable.

APRIL 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

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

HH

A18-49

A25-54

Monday 8-11pm

4%

0%

5%

Tuesday 8-11pm

-20%

-16%

-11%

Wednesday 8-11pm

-7%

12%

6%

Thursday 8-11pm

-7%

-12%

-17%

Friday 8-11pm

19%

36%

18%

Saturday 8-11pm

4%

25%

13%

Sunday 8-11pm

-21%

-5%

-9%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

-3%

0%

0%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

April brings another dose of reality to the newest member of the Scripps portfolio.  A little good and a little not so good.  Overall audiences were down slightly, pulling the lowest number in 18 months for the network.  Target adults 18-49 and 25-54 were both flat versus last year.   Inside those figures, men were down as much as 10%, but were balanced out with a 5-15% rise in women.  Demo ratings were at their lowest levels in roughly six months.  After almost nonstop growth for close to two years, the channel is starting to show the ups and downs of a classic television year.

No surprise, but with demos flat and total audience down, the median age also fell about 7%.  That's a good thing.  Travel has quickly become Scripp's youngest skewing network in their big three (w/ Food and HGTV).

Keeping to tradition, let's start with MAN VS FOOD.  Its days of unparalleled dominance are over, but it's still got enough strength to be the big man on the Travel campus.  Top 3 rated series on the schedule, both households and target demos.   Seven of the Top 20 rated telecasts.  Anchors Wednesdays and drives Tuesdays and Fridays, the three youngest nights of the week.  That's no coincidence.  Younger men still come to the series in figures well above average.  However, the stalwart is not without its share of bad news.  Adults were down 10% year on year, with men falling 15%.  Only a couple of premieres this month and those weren't even the highest rated episodes of the month.  Good:  repeats are solid.  Bad: premieres are breaking out of the pack.

Speaking of premieres, Bourdain is back.  ANTHONY BOURDAIN'S NO RESERVATIONS new season premieres hit Mondays at 10pm and audiences were there to greet them.  It was the highest rated regular series for the month, beating out MAN VS FOOD.  The April 12th episode was the highest rated single telecast of the month.  While demo numbers were down from the new season kick off in March, they were well up from last year.  In fact, 25-30% up.  Now if only they could keep the new episodes coming.

Sadly, FOOD WARS hasn't fared as well.  After a decent start, the city based competitive food property has been steadily dropping.  A month of premieres Tuesdays at 10pm were followed by a 10:30 repeat.  Above average audiences in the first week were cut in half by the third week of the month.  Further, audiences were down 40% and more from March.  Although concerned about the volume of food programming, we're not so sure that's the case here.  More likely, the appeal of a what amounts to a local food fight is having a tough time drawing national interest.

AMERICA'S WORST DRIVER appears to have fallen from grace as well.  Lowest rated series on the schedule this month.  Premieres were yanked off Sunday and moved over to Saturday.  Not good.

Elsewhere, GHOST ADVENTURES was in full repeat mode but still managed to finish above average lift its numbers significantly over last year.   The always dependable DAVID B LAINE brought one premiere to Sunday stack.  All three hours landed in the Top 20.

CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:

With Scripps Networks acquiring a majority stake in Travel, change has come.  In April, Laureen Ong was named President of the network, with Jonathan Sichel taking the role of General Manager.  Further changes are anticipated. 

The network could use some fresh titles and a little diversity.  A couple of anchor series are carrying the current schedule and that can't last much longer.  From where we sit, we're not seeing a whole lot on the near horizon right now.  In the last year, the network has become almost all food all the time.  At least that's the perception created with all of the food series dominating the channel headlines.  As part of the Scripps family, it's likely the channel will seek out concepts that embrace travel without food at the center.  Scripps already has two networks devoted to the genre and they probably weren't looking to buy another one. 

They see Travel as Lifestyle, consistent with their current network offerings.  While some of that is classic PR spin, there's a lot of truth to it.   We also expect that they'll go towards more series and less one-offs consistent with most Scripps nets.

On the subject of travel, Travel Channel IS the category.  Other networks may have it as a subcategory, or as a component of a series, but here, it's the core of most everything they do.  No other network directly competes with them, but rather, nibbles around the edges of some of their genre and certainly audience.

They tend to quote three Key Points for what the channel takes into consideration when evaluating any idea:

-    Lust for life -    Immersion and exploration -    Credible authorship

Lately, an accompanying internet component is not only necessary, it is deemed MANDATORY!  Take a look at their website:  you almost have to hunt for the TV part.

KEEP THIS IN MIND:
Programs usually need a host...make sure they have "a lust for life" and are "credible and IMPASSIONED INSIDERS" (their emphasis).  Programs should be "immersive" (literally defined as "a 3D image that seems to surround the viewer").   "What is the driving force?  What is the story arc?  What is the holy shit factor?"  BTW, good direction for any idea! "INSIDER" SERIES; ANTHROPOLOGY; ARCHAEOLOGY; ARCHITECTURE get $140-200k/hour.

Stay away from stories that are too personal(translation: vacation videos); overly formatted series; gimmicks;  competition programs; serialized formats and programs;  talent that's mere talent ("all hair and teeth") and not credible; docusoaps and pure reality shows.

What Travel does want is "sticky" take-away information; authentic travel experiences;  programs that transport the viewer;  visually appealing images; self-contained episodes (see: no serials); multi-platform opportunities (see: internet); articulate, knowledgeable talent.  And getting younger men is a part of all of this. They're now advertising an HD feed, so it wouldn't hurt to consider what makes a good HD travel show either.

And don't forget the website as a jumping off point for ideas....it plays to a younger audience, and has a retail connection (tools, trips, etc.).  Travel needs your mind on that as you submit program ideas.

Development: Anna.Garwood@TravelChannel.com 240-662-6501 Acquisitions: Matthew.Butler@TravelChannel.com 240-662-2115

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