Animal Planet Analysis - August 2010

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AUGUST 2010 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:

* Bold denotes programming change

SCHEDULING STRATEGIES:

Animal Planet is capitalizing on their success with edgier fare by scheduling more danger-driven series, featuring predators both real (RIVER MONSTERS, YOUR WORST ANIMAL NIGHTMARES) and imagined (LOST TAPES.) The older-skewing COPS/PRECINCT series known as HEROES, previously reduced to only one Prime hour, is now on hiatus. This shift in strategy led to a significant decline in Median Age in 2009. 2010 has seen a stabilizing of Median Age, thus far.

Thematic scheduling around animals / species is another strategy that has, for the most part, fallen by the wayside. Mondays used to be all HEROES programs, but now features series, both domestic and wild, with no discernable theme

Most weeknights programming leans toward the wild or raw side of animal life, with Thursdays  mainly reserved for specials and documentary mini-series (BLUE PLANET.) Saturday is the only full night to feature domestic programming, usually revolving around dogs.  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.

AUGUST 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

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

HH

M18-49

W18-49

P25-54

Monday 8-11pm

6%

67%

-17%

6%

Tuesday 8-11pm

-5%

6%

15%

6%

Wednesday 8-11pm

3%

-6%

44%

11%

Thursday 8-11pm

-21%

13%

6%

6%

Friday 8-11pm

22%

54%

19%

40%

Saturday 8-11pm

11%

63%

42%

38%

Sunday 8-11pm

3%

14%

6%

5%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

3%

29%

19%

16%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

The dog days of August were anything but for Animal Planet, which earned strong across-the-board demo growth in August compared to last year. Demos were up slightly over July 2010, overall. WHALE WARS and RIVER MONSTERS remained the top two series by far in demo delivery, and APL capitalized by filling 8 out of the 21 Prime hour-long slots with these series (see schedule above.)

July's block-scheduling strategy continued to be successfully deployed in August. A Monday-Tuesday tandem of six hours of RIVER MONSTERS during the last week of the survey beat the time period demo average. Four out of five Thursdays also featured three-hour series blocks, with RIVER MONSTERS scoring highest.

Monday's growth among younger men was also driven by  RIVER MONSTERS which ran in 7 of Monday's 15 available hours this survey.

With over two thirds of Tuesday's slots occupied by I SHOULDN'T BE ALIVE and RIVER MONSTERS in August, the night saw modest growth in  RW18-49, with men demos essentially flat.

CONFESSIONS: ANIMAL HOARDING helped drive Wednesdays to the greatest younger women growth of any night over last year. It was the #3 series for that demo overall, while proving quite compatible in appeal with its 10pm lead-out, MONSTERS INSIDE ME, which held virtually all of CONFESSIONS: ANIMAL HOARDINGS female demos.

Thursday's steep HH losses were mitigated by modest demo growth over last year. Series blocks  were slotted 4 of 5 Thursdays, with the aforementioned RIVER MONSTERS leading the way.

Friday featured two runs of WHALE WARS leading into RIVER MONSTERS, leading to the month's greatest weeknight HH and demo growth over last year. The night was up modestly compared with similarly programmed Fridays in July, indicating a reward for consistent scheduling.

Saturday saw CONFESSIONS: ANIMAL HOARDING replace PIT BOSS at 9pm, leading into what is now PIT BOSS' only regular slot at 10pm. While he combination of the two series led to the greatest percentage annual demo growth of the month, Saturday's low HUTs limit the utility of this growth - the night's gross viewership is the smallest of the week.

Sunday offered a mixed bag of series and specials, earning modest growth over last year and last month..

STRATEGIC OPPORTUNITIES:

If it's animals, it's a safe bet that a stop on your program pitch tour must include Animal Planet. Then again, if you have an idea that might be adaptable to animals (think MEERKAT MANOR), then bring it here, too. And the more reality, the better.

The old Animal Planet did not like to dwell on animal deaths.  The new Animal Planet, with a new logo, a new tag line and a new mantra likes wilder, more dangerous critters.  Before, it was everything up to the death...now, we're seeing killing and maiming -- animals vs. animals and animals vs. man. Titles with words like killer, ferocious, venomous and raw are finding more and more airtime. Not natural history so much as extreme wild life. It goes by many mantras by the network - programming with teeth, adrenaline-charged, etc The programs that seem to resonate the best are those that explore the often dangerous intersection of man and beast. Originals are the bulk of their programming, and they're open to pitches....usually more accessible than most nets.

It's tough to find as most inventory has been picked clean, but The Planet is always looking for "quality acquisitions."

CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:

With its new branding and new vision firmly in place, Animal Planet is taking on the new season with an ambitious lineup - 24 original series, including 14 returning programs and ten new ones that the Planet would like to brand as "a broad range of content with an entertainment attitude."

"Last year's rebrand was all about transforming Animal Planet into a multi-dimensional entertainment destination that can compete with the best television," said Marjorie Kaplan, president and general manager of Animal Planet Media. "We've had success in every one of our genres from grand scale docudramas like WHALE WARS and JOCKEYS to our Saturday night pet entertainment to gorgeous natural history. This year's slate builds from there to make us even stronger and more exciting."

The network will delve into dramatic stories (LAST AMERICAN COWBOY), pet programming, (PIT BOSS) and natural history (MUTUAL OF OMAHA'S WILD KINGDOM.)

The network has taken stock of what worked and what didn't in the past year. "When animals attack" has become a genre unto itself, and is pulling in the men for an increasingly male audience skew. These programs are now the building blocks of the mid-week schedule.

The MEERKAT copycats (LEMUR, ORANGUTAN, CHIMPS, even MEERKATS 2) weren't as strong as the animal that spawned them, programming-wise, ratings-wise or buzz-wise.

Saturday's dog programming has been going strong, especially among older women. It seems to have inspired a slew of dog- and cat-related programming, which is  now spilling beyond Saturday to find regular timeslots during the week. There's a long development slate about dogs on the horizon. If it's got dogs, Animal Planet is considering it...police dogs, sled dogs, rescue dogs, show dogs, shelter dogs...you name it. Dogs from Alaska, dogs from Minnesota, dogs from New Jersey...there are endless variations here and Animal Planet seems determined to explore them all. And for the most part, they all seem to be resonating with women.

WHALE WARS and RIVER MONSTERS are the biggest successes to come out of 2008/2009, and are among the 14 or so programs renewed for 2009/2010. Both of these programs focused more on the human element than the animal element.

Mixed results have come from celebrities and/or personalities on the sked...but they must be credible, entertaining, authorities in their field.  Animal Planet does view itself as "general entertainment," not "animals," so use that as your creative cue.  Characters are always important here so if you know a colorful person who's good with animals, we'd still keep them in mind.

Animal Planet continues its rebranding campaign, rolling out the tagline "Surprisingly Human" at the 2010-2011 Upfront Presentation.  Among the highlights, Animal Planet announced the launch of several new series, including: 

DOLPHIN WARRIORS, LAST CHANCE HIGHWAY, MUST LOVE CATS, TAKING ON TYSON, SKUNK WHISPERER (wt), WORLD'S DEADLIEST TOWNS (wt).  Continuing series include DOGS 101/CATS 101, THE HAUNTED, I'M ALIVE, I SHOULDN'T BE ALIVE, IT'S ME OR THE DOG, LOST TAPES, MONSTERS INSIDE ME, MUTUAL OF OMAHA'S WILD KINGDOM, PIT BOSS, PIT BOSS AND PAROLEES, RIVER MONSTERS, WHALE WARS.  New specials are INTO THE DRAGON'S LAIR, MADAGASCAR, WILD AMAZON, VIKING WILDERNESS.

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