JUNE 2011 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:
* Bold denotes programming change
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 (THE HAUNTED.)
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 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 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.
JUNE 2011 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / June 2011 vs. June 2010 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
June's ratings which were essentially flat with last year and last month's HH and demo delivery. Audience favorite WHALE WARS returned with new episodes, and two new series, SWAMP WARS and FINDING BIGFOOT, made their debut.
After several months that featured a transitional schedule (RIVER MONSTERS was the only consistently slotted series in May, for instance,) June sported seven Prime hours over five nights consistently scheduled with series.
RIVER MONSTERS, along with two runs of I SHOULDN'T BE ALIVE, helped Mondays grew slightly for A18-49 over last year and last month.
Specials ruled on Tuesday, with a block of the venerable off-Discovery mini-series PLANET EARTH, and it's spin-off PLANET EARTH EXTREMES filling the majority of time slots. Older female demos were down from last year as well as from May.
On Wednesday, repeats of RIVER MONSTERS from 8-10pm, were replaced by repeats of the previous Sunday's SWAMP WARS and FINDING BIGFOOT episodes, as well specials from the venom and fangs school. Not surprisingly, this night had the greatest RM18-49 growth of any weeknight this month. Men were up modestly from May as well.
Thursday's establishment of an extension of Saturday's domestic animal appeal gained some legs in June, as female demos grew modestly over last year and last month. Since this genre generally skews female, there's no surprise that the male viewers attracted to the wilder offerings on Thursday in 2010 are going elsewhere.
WHALE WARS returned to Friday at 8pm and 9pm leading into repeats of FINDING BIGFOOT or SWAMP WARS at 10pm. Overall WHALE WARS was down 21% in HH and older adults from June 2010, a month which also benefited from new RIVER MONSTERS episodes at 10pm. This led to the steepest overall declines form June 2011, although Men were up by nearly 50% from May.
Cats and dogs ruled on Saturdays, which were dominated by the return of DOGS 101 at 10pm. Numbers were essentially flat with last year, but down 20-30% from May. case in point: 3 x 60 MY CAT FROM HELL which was greenlit for a series following its six runs last month, declined 38% in HH rating in June.
A repeat of WHALE WARS led int debuting series SWAMP WARS and FINDING BIGFOOT, replacing RIVER MONSTERS from May. Compared to June 2010, when Sunday was dominated by the off-Discovery mini-series LIFE, the night earned the strongest growth of the month, with both new series growing out the 8pm lead-in. Initial evidence shows a growing audience for FINDING BIGFOOT, which grew 13% in HH rating from Week 1 to Week 4. SWAMP PEOPLE, conversely, dropped 20% from its debut by Week 3.
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.
Recently, Animal Planet has taken to ordering 3x60 mini-series such as WORLD'S DEADLIEST TOWNS and INFESTED, possibly as a low-risk tactic to test new concepts without committing to a "full" series.
They're tough to find as most inventory has been picked clean, but The Planet is always looking for "quality acquisitions."
CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:
In spring 2011 Animal Planet announced that they will further refine their development process based on the network's track record since launching its new "Surprisingly Human" branding campaign nearly two years ago.
Returning to a time-honored Discovery Networks modus operandi, future development will be concentrated among four "buckets:"
- Real people & things
- Man vs. Nature; (action-driven, male-appeal)
- Unusual relationships with animals (psychologically-driven, female-appeal)
- Cute (Saturday block)
These different sub-genres will also continue to inform Animal Planet's scheduling strategy (see above.)
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 and cats 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.
In addition, series like MUST LOVE CATS and CATS 101, in addition to the 3 x 60 MY CAT FROM HELL have proven that felines can be just as popular. Get used to seeing a steady stream of series and specials on these two top domestic species, especially given their support by endemic advertisers for pet food, medications and other products.
RIVER MONSTERS continues to be the top series for Animal Planet, especially when new seasons premiere.
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:
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.