Travel Channel Analysis - August 2010

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AUGUST 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.

AUGUST 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

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

HH

A18-49

A25-54

Monday 8-11pm

28%

53%

33%

Tuesday 8-11pm

-9%

-6%

-5%

Wednesday 8-11pm

26%

33%

32%

Thursday 8-11pm

14%

25%

38%

Friday 8-11pm

30%

30%

22%

Saturday 8-11pm

0%

0%

-6%

Sunday 8-11pm

-15%

21%

12%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

10%

18%

16%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

August brings a hold of serve.  Men were down, women were up a little more than that,and the net result is a 5% increase in both key adult demos.  Median age was up slightly over last year and considerably from the last few months.  Food continues to overwhelm the schedule, with 60% of prime time falling in the category. 

Only a few premieres this month, including SAMANTHA BROWN'S ASIA.  Unfortunately, the traditional hosted travel offering significantly underperformed the schedule averages.  Last week of the month the series takes a break. 

Monday night companion ANTHONY BOURDAIN NO RESERVATIONS fared much better.  Premieres at 10pm were well above average, and 9pm repeats were solid.  Even so, BOURDAIN lost men, but gained women relative to July and year ago August.

Wednesday is the only other night with new episodes, including the network's highest profile property, MAN VS FOOD.  9pm premieres every week led the night and the month.  Repeats were more than solid, especially the 9:30pm airings.  Including the series' airings elsewhere on the schedule, MAN follows the monthly pattern of men down, women up relative to year ago numbers.  Beyond Wednesday, the series continues to pile up good numbers in repeats across several nights.  Overall, MAN VS FOOD comprised roughly 25% of the entire prime time schedule, and amazingly, shows little sign of slowing down. It takes 18 of the 20 spots on the list of highest rated telecasts for August. 

Drafting off MAN VS FOOD, the 10pm Wednesday spot is ideal for bringing eyeballs to a new or returning series. BERT THE CONQUEROR fills the slot for a few weeks with decent numbers for the new episodes.  FOOD WARS followed the last two weeks of August with similar performances.  Unfortunately, both series experienced serious drops from their lead-in.  Not good.  A development opportunity waiting to happen. 

Elsewhere, the news is pretty thin.  Unlike most cable nets, Travel's schedule went into repeat mode for August.  Repeats from the one-up inventory are scattered across the schedule, with a smattering of anchor series linking it all together.  One of the few non-food series, GHOST ADVENTURES, struggled on Fridays without new episodes.  DAVID BLAINE specials offered a bit of a bright spot. A Saturday stack garnered above average numbers for the month. 

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.  A new Head of Programming was named in June with the responsibility of bringing fresh series and bigger numbers.

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.

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