Travel Channel Analysis - July 2010



* Bold denotes programming change


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.


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




Monday 8-11pm




Tuesday 8-11pm




Wednesday 8-11pm




Thursday 8-11pm




Friday 8-11pm




Saturday 8-11pm




Sunday 8-11pm




MTWTFSS 8-11pm




Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

On the heels of a solid June comes a strong July.  Annual comparisons all look good.  Total viewers are up 10%.  Target adults are up 20-25%.  Median age is down 10% and remains one of the youngest in cable.  With very little new content entering the schedule, it seems clear to us that the network is reaping its first benefits from the Scripps parent company.  Much like we saw when TruTV (then Court TV) entered the Turner portfolio, the cross channel promotion as part of the Scripps family is finding its mark.  Add in a few new properties and the momentum could snowball with even greater results. 

Food programming continues to define the network and provide the ratings.  A full 60% of the schedule was food, mostly coming from MAN VS FOOD, ANTHONY BOURDAIN, and ANDREW ZIMMERN.  None of the new series outside of the food genre appear to have gained any traction just yet.  More details below. 

As with every month for the last year plus, we begin with MAN VS FOOD.  Number one series in viewers and adult demos.  Dominates the numbers and the schedule.  You would think that 39 exhibitions alone in July would be overdoing it, but the audiences don't seem to think so.  Eight highest rated exhibitions this month were all MAN VS FOOD, and 15 of the top 20.  Wednesday premieres were the strongest with repeats holding their own as usual.  And that's the key.  The repeats hold their own.  Wednesday is the biggest and youngest night of the week, overwhelming everything else statistically.  Airings on Tuesday were solid.  Airings on Thursday were solid.  Same for Friday and a stack on Saturday. 

ANTHONY BOURDAIN NO RESERVATIONS had one last premiere and it cracked the top ten.  The original travel food franchise had a good month, rising about 10% in key demos over last year.  Monday 10pm was fine, while 9pm was just a little weaker. 

Highlights kind of fall off after the top two.  BERT THE CONQUEROR looks fine on paper, but looking beneath the numbers gives us pause.  Wednesday premieres are OK.  However, with the MAN VS FOOD lead-in we would expect better.  Much better.  Losing 30-40% of the key adults doesn't bode well for renewals.  Looking across the schedule, scattered repeats without the benefit of a big lead-in are well below average. 

SAMANTHA BROWN'S ASIA kicked off new episodes on Monday night.  Overall audience was strong, although the world traveller tended to skew older than the schedule.  Series was below average for the key adult demos. 

WORLD'S WACKIEST GAME SHOW was either too wacky to hold the audience's attention, or not wacky enough.  Not sure which.  After a couple Tuesday night premieres, we don't expect it be around much longer.  The 10:30 episode was the lowest rated single program on the network in July. 

GHOST STORIES struggled on Friday nights, wrapping up it's premiere run below average again.  Key adult audiences dropped about 10% from last month.  Repeats of GHOST ADVENTURES on Fridays were a little better.

EARTH WONDERS took over the last two Sundays of the month, faring very well with overall audiences.  All five premieres (and one repeat) were well above monthly averages.  The subject matter tends to skew older and July's offerings did just that.  Only one of the six programs hit the schedule averages for 18-49 and 25-54.  End result:  Sunday nights were 20% older than the network's median age. 


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.


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 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: 240-662-6501 Acquisitions: 240-662-2115