Travel Channel Analysis - October 2010

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OCTOBER 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.

OCTOBER 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

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

HH

A18-49

A25-54

Monday 8-11pm

28%

36%

23%

Tuesday 8-11pm

-10%

6%

-5%

Wednesday 8-11pm

8%

12%

15%

Thursday 8-11pm

24%

50%

53%

Friday 8-11pm

17%

12%

11%

Saturday 8-11pm

8%

13%

11%

Sunday 8-11pm

-31%

-30%

-33%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

3%

11%

5%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

Steady as she goes is the theme of this network.  Five months of level numbers in the target adult demos, representing a small but measureable growth over year ago audiences.  That growth was spread across several nights of the week with only Tuesday and Sunday falling off. 

Editorially, the schedule has become a two note song.  Food and ghosts.  Only six hours in Prime Time didn't fall into the two genres.  The remaining 99 hours were split evenly amongst cuisine and paranormal.  The rise of the latter is new this month and is largely responsible for the rise in numbers on Friday and Saturdays.  The predominance of food has been there since the success of MAN VS FOOD.

On the food side of schedule, MAN VS FOOD is still king.  And that's after filling 30 hours of prime with the property.  MAN significantly beat the net averages in October.  Despite the continuing success, the series was off from September and year ago figure.   Signs of age or just an off month?  Too early to know.

FOOD WARS popped in September, but has fallen a bit in October.  Series featured premieres every week on Wednesdays, sandwiched in several episdoes of MAN VS FOOD.  The comfortable surroundings didn't quite do it this time around.  FOOD WARS was down 20% from September.

Rounding out the genre, ZIMMERN and BOURDAIN were both under average for the month.  ZIMMERN was flat to last month, while BOURDAIN was down a whopping 40% in target adults.

Turning to the paranormal genre, GHOST ADVENTURES leads the pack in this growing category.  Friday night premieres building towards Halloween drew large audiences, including the top rated telecast of the entire month.  Series was up double digits from September, and almost 20% in young adults versus last year.

GHOST STORIES rose more than 50% from September, finishing just a hair below net average for the month.  Nevertheless, it appears to be holding down the Friday 10pm slot admirably.

MOST TERRIFYING PLACES, a series of recurring individual hours, found itself filling lots of time this month.  Overall numbers were below average, but the programs served its purpose: rounding out the paranormal nights alongside GHOST ADVENTURES and GHOST STORIES. 

Fridays continued to feature ghosts and phenomena, moving up versus last year and running neck and neck with Wednesday as the strongest night on the schedule.  Saturday got a boost with an influx of paranormal and ghosts, pulling a larger and younger audience. 

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.

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