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. Thursdays is the home for new series (HILLBILLY HAND FISHIN', TANKED,) with specials and mini-series having been relocated to Tuesday.
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.
OCTOBER 2011 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / October 2011 vs. October 2010 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
After a September whose ratings returned to last years levels, APL suffered double-digit demo losses in October. Blue-chip natural History specials and mini-series dominated the lineup, earning 10 of the top 20 individual telecasts for the month. APL premiered VIKING WILDERNESS in October, in addition to resurrecting fellow mini-series BLUE PLANET and the off-Discovery HUMAN PLANET. The predominance of the older-skewing Natural History genre in October may have led to the network's increase in Prime Median Age - up 8% over October 2011.
As with September every night of the week was overhauled, with the scary side of animals the dominant theme. I SHOULDN'T BE ALIVE returned to Wednesday and Friday, joined by new entry MY EXTREME ANIMAL PHOBIA also Friday, and PUPPIES VS. BABIES in Saturday's domestic block. The latter two series debuted outside of the Top 20 for the month. Overall, APL was down by modest double-digit percentages compared to last month.
Mondays remained a mixed bag changing from week to week. A night of domestic pet series episodes usually seen on Saturday performed best, while a block of THE HAUNTED turned in the weakest performance. Monday's Median Age grew 15% over last year, as younger men declined by 1/3. Demos were down by modest double digits from last month.
On Tuesday, new entry VIKING WILDERNESS combined with perennial favorite BLUE PLANET to draw 60% more Men to the network.. The downside of the blue-chip doc approach was a 21% increase in Median Age for the night over last year, following on the heels of a 25% increase last month.
On Wednesday, neither the return of I SHOULDN'T BE ALIVE in week 3, following blocks of similarly under-performing HILLBILLY HAND FISHIN and RAT BUSTERS NYC could stem the demo decline. Older Men were up nearly 30% over September, when ANIMAL COPS HOUSTON and CONFESSIONS ANIMAL HOARDING dominated the night, while Women were down in the 30-40% range from last month.
Thursday's mix of Natural History specials and series episodes was essentially flat across the board compared to 2010, and up in HH from last month. Off- Discovery Channel mini-series HUMAN PLANET led the way for demos, joined by a block of FATAL ATTRACTIONS (A18-49) and PLANET EARTH (A25-54.)
Friday's TANKED was replaced by blocks of I SHOULDN'T BE ALIVE mixed with specials and other series episodes. Among the latter were two runs of new series MY EXTREME ANIMAL PHOBIA, which maintained a consistent demo profile at 10pm the last two Friday's of the survey. This mix led to the steepest losses for the month, compared to last year and last month, with declines in the 40% range.
New series PUPPIES VS. BABIES premiered at 10pm on the third Saturday of the survey, replacing BAD DOG! By it's third week in the time period, PUPPIES VS. BABIES HH and demo ratings were half of those from the debut. For the night as a whole, female demos were flat compared to last year, with Men down sharply. Demos were down from in the 20% range from last month.
FINDING BIGFOOT drove Sundays to strong growth in Men, with both demos up 50% over 2010. The series finished as APL's #1 offering for M25-54 for the month, and tied BLUE PLANET and HILLBILLY HANDFISHIN' for top honors among younger men. Numbers were essentially flat compared with last month.
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 â€“ 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."