Travel Channel Analysis - July 2011

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JULY 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.

JULY 2011 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

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

HH

A18-49

A25-54

Monday 8-11pm

-24%

-39%

-28%

Tuesday 8-11pm

-3%

0%

0%

Wednesday 8-11pm

-34%

-39%

-34%

Thursday 8-11pm

7%

29%

10%

Friday 8-11pm

8%

12%

-5%

Saturday 8-11pm

-18%

-6%

-21%

Sunday 8-11pm

-14%

-6%

0%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

-13%

-10%

-14%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

July audiences were down double digits, with almost all of the drop coming from men.  Given the channel's stated intent has been to shift towards men, those figures aren't encouraging.

Veteran series have fallen considerably from 2010, with none of the new properties picking up the slack.  Way to early to be pushing a panic button, but it's clear that channel management is moving quickly to stem the drop.  Programming head Fred Graver is out after just 12 months.  New programmer, Andy Singer, comes from within the Scripps family.   No word on any editorial shifts as of this writing.

On the individual program front, there's good news for MAN VS FOOD.  The original version was completely in repeats and still finished a notch above average.  A three hour block made Thursdays the highest rated night of the week in the target demos.  Even more repeats helped put Wednesdays into the #2 spot.

Spin-off series, MAN VS FOOD NATION, featured a full slate of premieres at 9pm Wednesdays.  Adam Rich and friends nailed down the #1 spot for highest rated series in the target demos.

BERT THE CONQUEROR struggled mightily on Wednesday and was yanked in mid July.  Replacement MAN V FOOD immediately improved the time slot.

PARANORMAL CHALLENGE started strong in June, but couldn't keep the momentum going in July.  Friday 9pm premieres were fine, but repeats pulled the series down about 30% from last month.

GHOST ADVENTURES fell below average for the first time in quite a while.  No premieres didn't help the cause.  Lots of airings on Friday and Saturday were also a factor.  GHOST was down almost 20% in the key demo.

ANTHONY BOURDAIN NO RESERVATIONS was mostly new on Mondays, but was still down about 10% from last year.  ANDREWS ZIMMERN on Tuesday was up slightly over last year with three weeks of new episodes.

Sunday night was overhauled.  Out goes new series SANDMASTERS.  Never caught on.  Inventory repeats, most of which are single programs, fill the night at the moment.

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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