Animal Planet is capitalizing on their success with edgier fare by scheduling more danger-driven series, featuring predators both real (RIVER MONSTERS, GATOR BOYS) and imagined (FINDING BIGFOOT.)
Thematic scheduling around animals / species is another strategy that has, for the most part, fallen by the wayside. Animal Planet will program series blocks as stunts on virtually any night of the week, as series are continually tested in different scheduling configurations.
Most weeknight programming leans toward the wild or raw side of animal life. Rural America has featured prominently as the setting for several recent series, including HILLBILLY HANDFISHIN' , CALL OF THE WILDMAN, SNAKEMAN OF APPALACHIA. Specials and mini-series are still regularly featured on Tuesday, but also fill other nights as series come and go.
Saturday is the only full night to regularly feature domestic programming, usually revolving around dogs, although cat-oriented series have recently made their presence felt. Sunday, which used to feature more of a mixed bag, now seems to be firming up with more regularly scheduled programming and specials that explore the wilder, untamed animal themes.
Due to their continuous development cycle, APL is now launching new series and new seasons of returning series throughout the year.
MARCH 2012 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / March 2012 vs. March 2011 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
Weekend growth spurred APL to its third straight month of strong overall increases. Male viewers were also drawn by Tuesday's and Thursday's specials, as well as new series NORTHWOODS LAW on Friday. Men demos have come to dominate the Network, with the significant exception of Saturday night, where returning series TOO CUTE earned the overall highest series rating for the month, driven by Female demos.
Female demos were down by modest double-digit percentages from last month across the board. Median Age which had been dropping through 1st Quarter 2012 rose 5% from march 2011 and 14% from February 2012.
Six nights underwent a significant overhaul in March, continuing the network's practice of regularly shuffling series in and out of the lineup, as well as to new nights.
Various combinations of RATTLESNAKE REPUBLIC, GATOR BOYS and INFESTED replaced FINDING BIGFOOT on Mondays, leading to modest declines from 2011, when I SHOULDN'T BE ALIVE dominated the night. Ratings were down modestly from last month as well. INFESTED debuted as a 3-hour block the third week of the survey, but dropped 31% in RA18-49 and 35% in RA25-54 in Week 4.
Tuesday continued to feature Natural History specials, with perennial viewer favorite YELLOWSTONE: FIGHT FOR LIFE #1 overall for the night. Female demos were down sharply from both last month and last year.
FINDING BIGFOOT replaced GATOR BOYS 9-11pm in Wednesday's rural wildlife block, leading to a sharp decline for M18-49 from last year's RIVER MONSTERS-dominated evening. FINDING BIGFOOT did prove to be an able companion to 8pm HILLBILLY HANDFISHIN', though, holding or improving the lead-in. Men demos were down sharply from last month's original episodes of GATOR BOYS.
Thursday's February block of INFESTED was replaced by specials and mini-series, with WILD RUSSIA growing 9-11pm the final three weeks of the survey. This led to significant annual and monthly growth for Men demos.
New series NORTHWOODS LAW premiered at 9pm in Friday's lineup in Week 3 and held its debut ratings in Week 4, becoming the #1 overall series for Men demos for the month. 10pm RATTLESNAKE REPUBLIC could not maintain the lead-in however, and W18-49 declined by 1/3 from last year and February for the night as a whole.
Saturdays mix of domestic series did especially well among W18-49 and older demos, driven by overall #1 series 9-11pm TOO CUTE , which built smartly from the Season 2 debut of MUST LOVE CATS at 8pm. This continues strong growth in those demos for the fourth month in a row. Demos were down by modest double-digits from February, though.
A simul-cast of an episode of Discovery Channel's FROZEN PLANET was APL's top Sunday offering, and, indeed, the #1 individual telecast for APL for March. Combined with strong returns for the final episodes of the current season of FINDING BIGFOOT, the night as a whole grew 111% for RM25-54. In addition, younger Men nearly doubled from last year's line-up, which heavily featured TAKING ON TYSON, and Female demos grew in the 50% range. Men were up modestly from last month, with women down a similar percentage for the night.