Travel Channel Analysis - March 2011



* 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 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.


Live Primetime Ratings Comparison /March 2011 vs March 2010  (% 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

March picked up the pace and it was the women that carried it.  Target demos are up slightly, with total audiences holding steady.  Median age even dropped just a tad and remains one of the youngest amongst the non-fiction competitive set.  The schedule has just about completely shifted to single series stacks each night, with premieres dotted about as new seasons enter the picture.  Editorially, food and ghosts carry the channel again this month.

Mondays start things off with all ANTHONY BOURDAIN NO RESERVATIONS.  9pm featured new episodes, bookend by repeats to round out prime.  The night was up big time from February.  Year ago comparisons were a bit different.  Up with women, down for men, overall a single digit increase.  The series itself was down slightly from year ago.

Tuesdays improved on Monday, becoming the highest rated night of the week in the target demos.  ANDREW ZIMMERN is the head chef as usual.  Much like Mondays, premieres filled the 9pm slot and repeats took the 8pm and 10pm spots.  The new eps anchored the evening, drawing more than 25% more eyeballs in the target demos.

GHOST ADVENTURES fills Friday nights and has now spread over to Saturdays.  Combined the series is down slightly from last year.  On a nightly basis, the story is a little mixed on the monthly trends.  Men are down.  Women are up.  As the traditional home for GHOST, Fridays remain very strong.  Best night of the week, drawing more than 20% more adults than last year.  Saturday continues to lag though.  Lowest rated night of the week.  Might be asking too much to spread the wealth across two nights.

Wednesday and Thursday is all about MAN VS FOOD.  The long time ratings leader can still pull a decent audience here and there, but is no longer the audience magnet it once was.  Series is down slightly from year ago.

Sunday was the only night without single series stacks.  The night was slightly below average for the schedule, but was up a solid 11% in the target demo from February.  Interestingly, it was MAN VS FOOD that lifted the averages.  WHEN VACATIONS ATTACK was OK.  WILD WITHIN dropped single digits from last month.

One new premiere series hit the schedule this month:  DEATHWISH MOVERS.  Finished dead last amongst all series on the schedule.  The Wednesday 10pm property lost as much as half of its lead-in for the target demos.  Not the kind of start you're looking for as a programmer.


The network could seriously use some fresh titles and a little diversity.  A couple of anchor series are carrying the current schedule and they're weakening.  From where we sit, we're not seeing a whole lot on the near horizon right now.  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.  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.


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.