(Updated as of May 22, 2009)
TOP PRIMETIME SHOWS:
RIVER MONSTERS; WHEN ANIMALS STRIKE; I SHOULDN'T BE ALIVE; NIGHT
The COPS/PRECINCT block, known as HEROES used to be stripped at 10PM, and blocked out on Mondays, but the net has backed away from this long-lived and older skewing strand, putting other programming in its coveted 10PM time slot. 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 cat and dog (mostly dog) programming has been running in its place. Tuesdays and Wednesdays lean toward the wild or raw side of animal life, and Fridays go more "reality" (MEERKAT MANOR, WHALE WARS, JOCKEYS). Saturdays feature programming that revolves around dogs. Thursdays and Sundays used to be programmed differently every week, with high-profile specials or repurposed weekday programming, but they are both firming up with more regularly scheduled programming and specials that explore the wilder, untamed animal themes.
MARCH - APRIL
Lot's of changes this month, with nearly every night of the week affected by new programming premieres. (The premieres are all listed below.) The most strategic change came on Monday nights, as the 8-10PM cat / dog programming was replaced with ESCAPE TO CHIMP EDEN encores, specials and ANIMAL PLANET'S MOST OUTRAGEOUS.
** April 3 @ 9PM: ESCAPE TO CHIMP EDEN (season two)
** April 5 @ 7PM: MUTUAL OF OMAHA'S WILD KINGDOM (season seven)
** April 5 @ 10PM: RIVER MONSTERS
** April 8 @ 10PM: NIGHT
** April 11 @ 9PM: GROOMER HAS IT (season two)
** April 11 @ 10PM: MOST OUTRAGEOUS
** April 17 @ 10PM: STRANGER AMONG BEARS
MAY AND BEYOND:
** May 16 @ 10PM: BEVERLY HILLS GROOMER
** May 27 @ 9PM: YOUR WORST ANIMAL NIGHTMARES
** May 31: RIVER MONSTERS marathon
** June 5 @ 9PM: WHALE WARS
** Spring: WALK THE LION
** July 1 @ 9PM: MONSTERS INSIDE ME
** May 17 @ 10PM: RIVER MONSTERS
YEAR AGO/BIG PICTURE:
Animal Planet continues its good year, as April comes in as one of the higher rated months for the network, particularly among men. Men 18-49 and 25-54 ratings have hit a new tier this year, fed by the wild and raw programming direction the network has adapted.
Compared to last April, Monday - Sunday primetime household and female ratings are about ten percent higher, while men 18-49 ratings have jumped 42% and men 25-54 ratings are up 67%. Median age has come down seven percent.
Since last year, the network has undergone a major branding and philosophical overhaul - cute and cuddly is out, untamed and outrageous are, literally, in. The HEROES strand has been revamped and slimmed way back. Nights are no longer programmed around animal species. But with all that, it was one program that was almost single-handedly responsible for the ratings increases this April. RIVER MONSTERS. Among men its ratings more than tripled the next closest program (HUMAN PREY). The nights it was on the air (Sundays and Wednesdays) are the highest rated nights and the only nights with solid audience increases for both men and women. Unfortunately, there were only seven episodes ordered for the season. Fortunately, they are already set to begin shooting season two.
WHALE WARS was another program that pulled in strong audiences, back in winter 08/09. As the network develops its aggressive programming slate and long line of premieres, it is clearly aiming for more breakout hits that can become signature programming.
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison:
April 2009 vs. April 2008 (% Change)
HH M18-49 W18-49A25-54
Monday 8-11pm -3% ** -24% -8%
Tuesday 8-11pm 6% 25% -6% 14%
Wednesday 8-11pm 14% 85% 19% 47%
Thursday 8-11pm 6% 0% 6% 14%
Friday 8-11pm 0% ** 17% 33%
Saturday 8-11pm -18% -9% -5% -11%
Sunday 8-11pm 49% 171% 69% 113%
MTWTFSS 8-11pm 9% 42% 13% 27%
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
APRIL 2009 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Animal Planet's total primetime audience took small moves in the right direction this month, vs. last, as women 18-49 and 25-54 ratings improved by 13% and 6%, men 18-49 ratings remained the same, and men 25-54 ratings were up by five percent. Household audience was the same size as last month's.
On Mondays the dog and cat programming was taken away, replaced with the chimps of ESCAPE TO CHIMP EDEN. CHIMP EDEN is performing slightly below the dog programming among women, but better among men, for an overall improvement there. However, the three Monday night runs of SUE THOMAS: F.B. EYE did okay on households, but tanked on demo, and was the single biggest contributor to the night's 20% demo audience decline. An ANIMAL COPS SPECIAL 2009 pulled in the best ratings of the night.
Male viewing dropped by about one-fourth on Tuesdays, and female viewing was flat vs. March. With its impressive title and unimpressive ratings, DARK DAYS IN MONKEY CITY was yanked from the line-up. Instead, UNTAMED AND UNCUT was paired with I SHOULDN'T BE ALIVE, resulting in an underperforming night for the net, I SHOULDN'T BE ALIVE aired on Wednesdays last month. While it is still a top-rated program, demo ratings fell across the board, -15% for adults 18-49 and -10% for adults 25-54.
Wednesday night showed the second-best demo growth this month - encores of RIVER MONSTERS brought home demo increases ranging from +6% for women 25-54 to +30% for men 25-54. Interestingly, household ratings declined 2%. In a lesson on the wisdom of programming a regular encore night, as the month progressed, ratings for the RIVER MONSTER encores improved, even as Sunday premiere-night episode ratings declined. New program NIGHT premiered at 10PM on Wednesdays. It consistently lost audience from its RIVER MONSTERS lead-in, and performed right at the network average. Not a program for the breakout hit column.
Thursday nights brought an unexceptional mix of programming, anchored by ANIMAL COPS HOUSTON at 10PM. Lowest ratings were brought in by another airing of the ANIMAL PLANET DOG CHAMPIONSHIPS, and the best ratings were from more runs of BLUE PLANET: SEAS OF LIFE. Ratings for the night were down across the board.
Fridays were also down across the demo board, dropping ratings for another month. It was premiere night for ESCAPE TO CHIMP EDEN, which put in a ratings performance similar to last month's JOCKEYS. UNTAMED AND UNCUT and I WAS BITTEN were missed from the schedule, as this month's specials underperformed those programs. STRANGER AMONG BEARS showed some promise in its second week on the line-up.
Saturday's dog programming continues its steady pattern of strong female viewing. Ratings were slightly up among women, with new episodes of GROOMER HAS IT freshening the line-up.
Of course, Sundays were all about RIVER MONSTERS. The four premiere telecasts were the top rated of the month, far surpassing all other programs. The top rated special of the month, LION CALLED CHRISTIAN also aired on a Sunday (the 5th), and LOST TAPES and WEIRD TRUE AND FREAKY rounded out the night with their above-average performances. At the end of the month, Sunday's demo ratings grew by about +60%. Sunday was also the only night of the month to improve on household ratings, with an impressive 38% growth.
ADDITIONAL RATINGS ANALYSIS:
According to Animal Planet's PR, April marked the 12th consecutive month of year-over-year growth among M18-34 and 6th consecutive month among P25-54, M25-54, P18-49 and M18-49.
RIVER MONSTER was the best-performing series in the network's history, reeling in an average of more than a million households across its seven premiere episodes. A second season has been ordered, which will go into production this summer and hit the air next spring. (Per Animal Planet)
DOGS 101 (Fall 2009), IT'S ME OR THE DOG (Winter/Spring 2010), JOCKEYS (Summer/Fall 2009), LOST TAPES (Fall 2009), MUTUAL OF OMAHA'S WILD KINGDOM (Spring 2010), UNTAMED AND UNCUT (Fall 2009), WEIRD, TRUE AND FREAKY (Fall 2009), WHALE WARS (Summer 2010)