Travel Channel Analysis - May 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 /May 2010 vs. May 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

May usually means an audience for the channel but no so much this year.  End result are some very nice increases year on year.  Target adults were up 12-13% from last May.  Numbers were essentially flat from April, but that's actually a good thing compared to previous years.  Median age was down considerably from year ago.  However, some caution as it also aged up for the 2nd consecutive month. 

In a turnaround from April, MAN VS FOOD enjoyed a great month, even with zero new episodes.  Top rated series for men, women, and adults.  Adults were up more than 30% over last year, and almost 20% over last month.  It continues to dominate the Top 20 individual rated telecast list for the channel.  Another hour was added to the schedule on Wednesday at 8pm, making the entire night MAN VS FOOD night.  It was also inserted into the Monday night line-up a couple of weeks in May with decent success.  Overexposure?  Possibly.  But the numbers are holding up for now. 

BIZARRE FOODS W/ ANDREW ZIMMERN delivered four strong premiere episodes at 10pm Monday night.  The night was well up from year ago.  Repeats fell below that standard and the series finishes flat versus last year.  On the positive, audiences were up heavily over April, contributing the network's overall increases for the month.  Episodes were inserted on a couple of Thursday with mixed results.

ANTHONY BOURDAIN'S NO RESERVATIONS had a great April.  And then it disappeared in May.  With no new episodes to offer, the series only made a limited appearance for three weeks and that was it.  No surprise, but audiences were well off the April figures.

GHOST ADVENTURES was out of premieres as well, but audiences hung in there on Friday nights.  Target demos were flat for the series from year ago, and down just a notch from April. 

AMERICA'S WORST DRIVER survived the ax long enough to finish it's run.  The last two episodes ran in May, relegated to the graveyard that is Saturday night.  Below average numbers of course. 

SAMANTHA BROWN appears to be taking on an increased role now that Scripps oversees the network.  She's probably the most prominent talent outside the food genre that can be seen on a regular basis.  Her GREAT WEEKEND series had a full slate of Thursday premieres in May.  Draw OK with total audience, but struggles mightily with the younger demos.  Still, the programming fits the brand expectations and brings lots of attention to the channel.  Expect her role to grow in the coming months.


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