Travel Channel Analysis - January 2010

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JANUARY 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.

JANUARY 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

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

HH

A18-49

A25-54

Monday 8-11pm

-9%

-14%

-16%

Tuesday 8-11pm

19%

33%

35%

Wednesday 8-11pm

19%

14%

9%

Thursday 8-11pm

-3%

-12%

-15%

Friday 8-11pm

48%

50%

70%

Saturday 8-11pm

-19%

30%

25%

Sunday 8-11pm

-15%

-8%

-12%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

0%

18%

11%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

Channel leads off the new year right where it left off with increased ratings for the 17th consecutive month.  Numbers were up across the board again, all demos, both genders.  Women deliveries are at record levels, softening the male skew to its lowest levels in 15 months.  Median age was down 3% from last year, although it's been creeping up slightly since October. 

As with December, two properties dominate the ratings and the ratings story.  GHOST ADVENTURES takes over the #1 spot, supplanting MAN VS FOOD for the first time in a long time.  Series is up 40-50% over last year on the key demos, making Friday night the strongest night of the week.  Numbers dropped slightly each week through January, but all five weeks were above the network averages.  Further, it's the only non-Food content to show up consistently in the Top 20, a great value for a network that sorely needs some diversity of content.

MAN VS FOOD.  Here we go again.  Even with GHOST ADVENTURES topping it across the month, it's still the top dog.  The premiere numbers on Wednesdays remain strong.  It's up single digits over last year, quite a feat considering the high number of exhibitions in January.  It is Wednesday night, it anchors Tuesday nights, and it sets things up on Friday nights.  The property filled 20% of the network's prime time,  Numbers are still holding up, even with the continued exposure. 

The five part mini-series, 101 TASTIEST PLACES TO CHOWDOWN counted down 20 spots per episode on Tuesday nights, culiminating in an end of the month Sunday stack for the finale.  Numbers were OK across the month, falling just a bit below network averages for January.  The finale drew just a tad above average.

BOURDAIN and ZIMMERN were flat to down versus last year.  The mix of inventory across the rest of the schedule was mostly below the baseline being set by GHOST ADVENTURES and MAN VS FOOD. 

If there's something to watch going forward, it's the amount of content focusing on food and food related travel.  Notwithstanding the aforementioned series, the genre is dominating the schedule.  67% of the schedule (70 hrs) was food programming, including all of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday.  With one exception, all of the top series, and a significant portion of the single hours fall within the category.  Now that the network is part of the Scripps family, will it become their third food based franchise, or will the new ownership bring a greater diversity of content to the schedule?  To be continued....

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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