Travel Channel Analysis - August 2011

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AUGUST 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.

AUGUST 2011 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

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

HH

A18-49

A25-54

Monday 8-11pm

-12%

-0%

4%

Tuesday 8-11pm

-26%

-20%

-11%

Wednesday 8-11pm

-34%

-38%

-33%

Thursday 8-11pm

0%

6%

0%

Friday 8-11pm

-10%

-5%

-5%

Saturday 8-11pm

-16%

13%

-20%

Sunday 8-11pm

-29%

-35%

-29%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

-21%

-14%

-17%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

A weakened August ends a very difficult summer for the network.  Audiences were down for both key demos, this time with men and women, making it the lowest rated August in 3 years.  A third consecutive month with year on year drops moves the conversation from momentary lapse to a downward trend that needs to be dealt with.  Median age remains one of the lowest for non-fiction networks, but has been steadily rising since the Spring.

MAN VS FOOD NATION was a bright spot on the schedule.  The Wednesday 9pm offering featured a full slate of premieres, and was the highest rated regularly scheduled series in the key demos.  NATION was up 12% and 18% from July in A25-54 and A18-49 respectively.

The parent series, MAN VS FOOD, didn't fare so well though.  Series was down 15% from July in the key demos.  Worse, it was down 40% from last year.  The aging veteran has been minimized on Wednesdays, but continues to fill the entire Thursday night prime block where it underperforms the schedule averages.  It  could use some help soon.

ANTHONY BOURDAIN NO RESERVATIONS was the star of the month.  Premiere episodes on Mondays at 9pm made it the strongest night of the week for target demos.  Repeats leading in and out of the premieres weren't quite as strong, but were above schedule average more often than not.

GHOST ADVENTURES was on average for the month, improving on last year's performances.  No premieres this month.  The long running series gave up some of the Friday slots to make room for PARANORMAL CHALLENGE, and continues to fill all of Saturday night.  Signs of wear and tear are beginning to show.  Saturday was the lowest rated night of the week, down 20% from year ago.

PARANORMAL CHALLENGE showed early promise in June, fell back in July, and kept falling in August.  The remaining premieres for its inaugural season, as well as the repeats, were weak on Fridays.   A second season seems unlikely, but the development cupboard has been bare so the odds have increased.

TRUCK STOP MISSOURI was the newest addition to the schedule in August.  A fun look at the businesses and people of a truck stop in the nation's midsection, TRUCK STOP was slotted in Wednesdays at 10pm to take advantage of the #1 MAN V FOOD NATION lead-in.  The strategy paid off early with the first two weeks garnering some nice numbers in the key demos.  It faded in the back half of August, with the last week finishing more than 30% below schedule averages.

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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