Travel Channel Analysis - April 2011

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APRIL 2011 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 WHEN VACATIONS ATTACK, 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 2011 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

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

HH

A18-49

A25-54

Monday 8-11pm

18%

28%

25%

Tuesday 8-11pm

38%

38%

35%

Wednesday 8-11pm

18%

26%

21%

Thursday 8-11pm

-14%

-7%

7%

Friday 8-11pm

32%

37%

35%

Saturday 8-11pm

20%

20%

6%

Sunday 8-11pm

-13%

-21%

-19%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

11%

18%

11%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

Led by a boost in men, April marks a noticeable improvement over year ago figures.  Women were up, men were up more, and median age is down 7% from 2010.  Even with the annual dip from March, chalk this up as good month for the folks at Travel.

The simplified schedule, stacking a single series each night is bearing fruit, at least with the old standby series.  GHOST ADVENTURES was the top rated series of the month, making Friday night the strongest night on the schedule.  With a full month of premieres at 9pm, GHOST was up double digits over last year.

Monday follows a similar pattern with ANTHONY BOURDAIN'S NO RESERVATIONS.  Night was up in every demo across the board, with 18-49 and 25-54 up more than 20%.  Full load of premieres again at 9pm were all solid, although the repeats dipped slightly.  BOURDAIN was down about 5% from last year as a result.

Tuesdays were up tremendously, jumping more than 35% in both target demos.  ANDREW ZIMMERN'S BIZARRE FOODS only featured a couple premiere episodes, but the repeats were just as strong.  The series was up 40-50% over last year.

MAN VS FOOD stopped its slide with a comeback April.  Target audiences were up 10-15% versus last April, and slightly from March.   Wednesdays were up more than 20% over last year thanks to the return of the network anchor.

Sunday was one of the few nights without a single series stacked for the evening.  Overall, it was down 20% from last year.  BERT THE CONQUEROR was back for a second season, filling the 8pm timeslot.  Premieres at 8pm, repeats at 8:30.   BERT was about 20% below schedule averages for April.  WHEN VACATIONS ATTACK rounded out the last two hours and didn't fare much better.  VACATIONS fell off from its lead-in, and was one of the lower rated series on the schedule.

Thursday's MAN VS FOOD weren't quite as strong as Wednesday night, but enough to bring the night up a notch over last year.  Likewise, Saturday's run of GHOST ADVENTURES pushed the night up slightly, but didn't come close to its normal Friday night run.  Both nights are OK for now, but they need fresh concepts soon.

Speaking of fresh concepts, TRIPLE RUSH debuted on Thursdays at 10pm.  The world of bike messengers in the Big Apple simply didn't deliver.  The first week was way below average, and the second dropped even further.  RUSH finishes as the lowest rated series of the month.  Wouldn't be looking for a season two on this one.

CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:

The network is slowly inserting some fresh titles and a little diversity.  So far, nothing has gained any traction, but they're trying.  Just a few anchor series carry the current schedule and they're weakening.  We're not seeing a whole lot on the near horizon right now, at least in the network's announcements.  In the last 18 months, 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.  With more than a year as part of the Scripps family, the channel is now seeking 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," and "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.

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