MARCH 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 (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 saw a stabilizing of Median Age.
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 are starting to make 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 2011 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / March 2011 vs. March 2010 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
Significant year-to-year demo losses on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday led to double-digit annual declines for March as a whole. There were also significant monthly losses among female viewers on Monday and Saturday, as well as among all demos on Wednesday and Sunday, leading to an 11% decrease for W18-49 and 10% decrease for W25-54 from February 2011. Delivery for HH and other demos were basically flat with last month.
Comparing the annual declines experienced in March 2011 with those of last month, we find that M18-49 losses doubled those suffered in February, while W18-49 losses tripled and A25-54 quadrupled from last month.
Overall, March 2011 was another transitional month for Animal Planet, as only 1 of 21 Prime time slots were consistently scheduled with the same series or anthology for the four weeks of this survey.
New series MUST LOVE CATS remained the top regularly scheduled series for the second month in a row. New series TAKING ON TYSON debuted Sunday at 10pm, but lost half of its opening week HH and demo delivery in week two. Moved to 8pm for the final two weeks of the survey, TAKING ON TYSON occupied the bottom rung for regularly scheduled series ratings for March.
Mondays featured the return of I'M ALIVE for the last two weeks of the survey at 8pm, replacing the higher-rated OPERATION WILD. Ratings for all viewers declined modestly from last month, with the exception of older men who grew slightly.
A block of FATAL ATTRACTIONS replaced Tuesday's 3-hour CONFESSIONS: ANIMAL HOARDING block, delivering similar HH and demo ratings. Compared to March 2010's Predation-heavy line-up, Tuesday understandably lost significant Male demos, while gaining women. Month-to-month results were similar.
On Wednesday, repeats of RIVER MONSTERS replaced I SHOULDN'T BE ALIVE and YOUR WORST ANIMAL NIGHTMARE from 8-10pm, leading into I'M ALIVE at 10pm, and readying the night for the new RIVER MONSTERS season debuting in April. The night grew sharply for male demos over last year and last month.
Thursday's continued steep monthly and annual drops may be due to the predominance of repeats on the Specials-driven night. Besides being the top specials for March, PIG BOMB and YELLOWSTONE: BATTLE FOR LIFE were also the two top overall offerings for the month for Animal Planet.
Unlike Tuesday, Friday did not benefit from FATAL ATTRACTIONS replacement of CONFESSIONS: ANIMAL HOARDING from 8-10pm. Women demos were up slightly from last year, but all other demos declined modestly from March 2010, as well as last month.
Saturdays were dominated by the continuing premiere of MUST LOVE CATS at 8pm, as well as new episodes of PIT BOSS at 10pm. The inability of the 9pm repeat episodes of PIT BOSS to hold the CATS lead-in most weeks, suggest that the two pet species may be as incompatible on the schedule as they are depicted to be in real life. PIT BOSS delivered a nearly 50% higher rating for M18-49 than did MUST LOVE CATS, although female demos were comparable.
As noted above, debuting series TAKING ON TYSON premiered at 10pm on Sunday, but was relocated to 8pm half-way through the survey. Demos were down modestly from last month for the night as a whole. Two episodes of the off-Discovery PLANET EARTH were the top-rated offerings here.
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:
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 delved 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:
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.