Travel Channel Analysis - March 2010

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MARCH 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.

MARCH 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

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

HH

A18-49

A25-54

Monday 8-11pm

0%

0%

9%

Tuesday 8-11pm

7%

11%

5%

Wednesday 8-11pm

-23%

-20%

-19%

Thursday 8-11pm

-10%

6%

0%

Friday 8-11pm

14%

18%

16%

Saturday 8-11pm

0%

13%

5%

Sunday 8-11pm

-3%

36%

18%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

-3%

6%

5%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

A long growth streak came screeching to a halt in February, but a new one begins in March.  This one probably won't go 17 months, although more premiere programming will clearly be the key to extending it beyond March.  Target demos were up 5% over last year.  Further, 1Q10 bested was over 1Q09 by a slight margin,even with the February dip.

Turning to the programming, the value of premieres was loud and clear in March.  Wrestling the crown for top rated series away from MAN V FOOD was ANTHONY BOURDAIN NO RESERVATIONS thanks in no small part to new programming every week.  Demo numbers were up 40-50% over last month when repeats were the order of the day.  10pm premieres every Monday drove those numbers.  Three of the four landed in the net's Top 20 rated telecasts for the month.  On the other hand, inventory repeats elsewhere in prime lagged behind.  More premieres or more series seems to be the fix.

We'll stop short of calling FOOD WARS a breakout, however it's certainly solidified its place in the schedule.  Four premieres and all four landed in the month's Top 20.  Sandwiched (no pun intended) amongst repeats of MAN V FOOD on Tuesday nights has certainly been a good place to be.  Series' best numbers come from an overwhelming influx of men on three of the four episodes, disproportionately more than the rest of the schedule in fact.

MAN V FOOD may be slowing down, but it isn't out.  Still a top 5 series and with only four new episodes in march, 12 exhibitions landed in the Top 20.  Nevertheless, target demo ratings were down 25% from last year, leaving a big gap to fill elsewhere across the week.  For the second consecutive month MAN V FOOD makes up the lion's share of the schedule.  53 airings across the month representing 1/3 of the entire prime time line-up.

GHOST ADVENTURES was solid, even in full repeat.  It's the only non-food series that continually brings an audience to the table.  Could use a few more of those.  TASTIEST PLACES TO CHOW DOWN was off considerably from Feburary.  Too much food perhaps? 

AMERICA'S WORST DRIVER debuted on Sunday night.  A format based concept, the series puts some of the worst drivers in a single city to the test against themselves and each other to determine who walks away with the crown.  They literally walk away because the winner (loser) watches his car get devoured at the junkyard as their reward.  WORST DRIVER had a good start out of the gate with a Top 10 telecast.  However, two weeks later the series had lost almost half of its audience.  Losing viewers is always the pattern after a highly promoted premiere, but losing nearly 50% in two weeks doesn't speak well for long term survival.  The format itself could be the issue.  After a few segments, believing that any driver could truly be that clueless, especially with cameras rolling, is a tough sell.  In an era where the real in reality is taken with great skepticism, WORST DRIVER struggles.  Expect it to finish the season quietly and fade away. 

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.  Further changes are anticipated. 

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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