Travel Channel Analysis - June 2010

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JUNE 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.

JUNE 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

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

HH

A18-49

A25-54

Monday 8-11pm

3%

5%

9%

Tuesday 8-11pm

-26%

-29%

-33%

Wednesday 8-11pm

34%

56%

44%

Thursday 8-11pm

-7%

-6%

6%

Friday 8-11pm

-13%

-11%

-10%

Saturday 8-11pm

26%

54%

40%

Sunday 8-11pm

25%

33%

35%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

3%

11%

10%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

Historically, June means a bounce in the audience numbers and this year is no exception.  After a slow Spring, the network kicks off the summer season with it's strongest month since January.  Adult demos are up 10%, even more with women.  Total audiences are up slightly at 3%.  Best news is that median age was down 7% from last year.  Further, it's the youngest we've seen the channel in four years of tracking. 

MAN VS FOOD followed a strong May with an even better June.  Audiences were up 10% versus last year, and about the same from month ago deliveries.  Highest rated series on the schedule and top three for the 18-49 and 25-54 demos.  It's singlehandedly driving down the net's aforementioned median age.  Wednesday night, loaded with three hours of the series, was roughly 15% younger than the rest of the schedule.  Saturday and Sunday also went to the youth movement with a couple of mini-stacks across the month.  Only concern we continue to have is the sheer volume of exhibitions.  Almost 1/3 of the network's entire prime time schedule was devoted to this single series in June.  When it's doing well, as it did in June, it can take the network to new heights.  If it begins to fade, the impact can be equally dramatic. 

ANDREW ZIMMERN'S BIZARRE FOODS was up roughly 10% over last year.  Monday nights at 10PM were especially strong, along with a handful of solid performances on Thursdays.

BERT THE CONQUEROR debuted on a Wednesday night midmonth.  Results were mixed.  On the surface, numbers were solid.  Premieres were right around the network averages, with repeats slightly off from that. Digging a little deeper though, the rookie series shows clear signs of trouble.  Wednesday 10pm airings lose a good portion of the primo lead-in coming out of MAN VS FOOD.  While we wouldn't anticipate it could hold the full audience, losing 30-40% is more than we would like.  The 10:30 airing on premiere week lost even more of the audience.  No 10:30 airing in week 2 for the series.  A few repeats on Saturday and Sunday didn't stand out either.  Not the worse debut we've seen, but the channel is going to need better than this if it expects to grow beyond the food and personality arena.

GHOST ADVENTURES had an off month.  With premieres over, the all repeat line-up couldn't sustain much.  Numbers were down almost 20% from last year.  GHOST STORIES fared a little better on Friday nights, but not quite enough to best the network averages. 

Amongst the scattered one-ups across the week, a short stack of escape artist DAVID BLAINE on a Sunday/Saturday combo garnered very strong numbers.  And that's with all repeats.  Too bad they can't get a full series out of him.

CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:

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.

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

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