Travel Channel Analysis - December 2009

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DECEMBER 2009 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, Tuesday is ANDREW ZIMMERN BIZARRE FOODS, Wednesday is MAN VS FOOD, and Friday is GHOST ADVENTURES.  The remaining nights feature an occasional series such as MADVENTURES 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.

DECEMBER 2009 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / December 2009 vs. December 2008  (% Change)

HH

A18-49

A25-54

Monday 8-11pm

-12%

-13%

-12%

Tuesday 8-11pm

0%

-6%

0%

Wednesday 8-11pm

25%

62%

33%

Thursday 8-11pm

0%

7%

20%

Friday 8-11pm

16%

32%

20%

Saturday 8-11pm

-19%

30%

25%

Sunday 8-11pm

-15%

-21%

-10%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

0%

18%

11%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

The channel rounds out a fantastic year as target adult demos rise once again.  Every month, January to December, numbers have been up year on year.  The envy of networks everywhere.  January may prove to be a challenge though as annual comparisons come full circle and the baseline is now much higher.

MAN VS FOOD is growing ever more dominant every month and that's not necessarily a good thing.  The powerhouse series continues to occupy the top spot on the schedule in December.  Wednesday nights are more than 50% above the network averages with full stacks of the series.  Further, Friday repeats at 8pm have also been strong, especially the 8:30pm airing. Finally, a special stack on December 10th was 60% higher than a normal Thursday, and all with repeats. 

GHOST ADVENTURES landed above average for the month, featuring premiere episodes for the first three weeks.  Even a couple of repeats on Christmas night grabbed a sizeable audience.  Having the aforementioned MAN VS FOOD as the lead-in certainly helped, but the audiences stuck around long enough to make the new episodes some of the better telecasts of the month. 

After MAN VS FOOD and GHOST ADVENTURES, there's just not much else to speak about.  Long running travel and food series fell below average. BOURDAIN and ZIMMERN ran a full slate of repeats.  Let's hope they find some premieres soon. 

FORBES LUXE 11, despite a bunch of premieres, couldn't gain any traction on Saturday nights.  The top ten list approach lacked the format's usual energy as seen on numerous other networks.  Same story for MEET THE NATIVES.  Repeats and premieres on Sundays both fell short of prime averages.

CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:

With Scripps Networks acquiring a majority stake in Travel, we expect changes in the coming months.  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. 

It's possible we'll see programming crossing over from Food to Travel and vice versa.  One comment from their CEO was telling for the moment.  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 ALSO: Download Travel's Spring 2009 Commissioning Brief.

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