Discovery Analysis - January 2010

Publish date:


* Bold denotes programming change


Schedule has shifted from a consistent slate of series to one that features several nights mixed with single hours, series repeats, and specials.  Tuesdays have been the anchor night of late, using DEADLIEST CATCH as a springtime anchor with other series (SWORDS, COLONY) to follow.  Wednesdays have alternated MYTHBUSTERS and MAN VS WILD as the anchor.  Thursdays have featured a variety of series, including half hours, although none have settled there permanently.  Mondays and Fridays offer a variety of series repeats and loose titles with little to no consistency on a week to week basis.  Saturdays tend to push mini-stacks of the best performing series throughout the week.  Sunday recently returned to its roots, becoming the home for premiere specials and highlighted encores.


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




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MTWTFSS 8-11pm




Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

As expected, numbers improved over a quiet December, but not enough to stem the losses on a year to year level.  Network was down for the 4th consective month.  With new and returning series hitting the air with fresh episodes in January, this was a good month to reverse their recent trends.  Unfortunately, audiences didn't respond in kind as ratings were down low single digits across all demos.

One piece of good news was the breakout performance for HOWE & HOWE TECH.  A very strong debut in the first week of January carried over throughout the month.  Total audiences were just OK, but the men were more than 30% higher the network's averages.  Women didn't come along for the ride, ending on par with the rest of the schedule.  Loaded with science and with the outrageous quotient toned down, this new property came out of the gate in fine fashion.

Two other debuts this month didn't fare so well, MOTOR CITY MOTORS and SOLVING HISTORY: OLLY STEEDS.  The former returned the network's gearhead era from a few years ago, this time travelling to Detroit.  Even shifting MYTHBUSTERS to Monday to give it a lead-in wasn't enough to juice the numbers.  Men were roughly 10% below average, a big change from the days when the genre would lead the network week after week.  As for OLLY STEEDS, the Nazca Lines episodes was fine, but the viewers lost interest elsewhere.  Looks like this one is due for a short run before taking a very long hiatus.

The schedule's stalwarts featured premieres throughout the month and were rewarded accordingly.  MYTHBUSTERS, MAN VS WILD, and DIRTY JOBS continue to shine when fresh episodes are part of the mix.  JOBS led the way with the strongest female numbers for any series this month.

Not so good?  Logging series, crime (FLIPPED: A MOBSTER TELLS) far flung adventure destinations (EVEREST:BEYOND THE LIMIT and OUTLAW AMAZON), and just about anything on Sunday night.  Three weeks of PLANET EARTH EXTREMES dragged Sundays almost 40% from last year, demonstrating that inserting Planet Earth in the title doesn't always bring ratings gold. 


Still one of the best brands in the business.  The most households, the widest global reach, the greatest prestige, and if Discovery gets behind it, a pretty good marketing campaign, too.  They'll commission it, co-produce it, acquire it, license it, merchandise it, take it around the name it.  However, the bulk of the effort has shifted to global commissions.  CEO David Zaslav's desire to push product outwards to DCI's regions has come to fruition the last couple of years. 

With 2010 comes a new year and another round of new management. Longtime veteran Clark Bunting returns to the channel after a six year hiatus and he's bringing management of diginet Science Channel with him.  Too early to know what impact the change will have editorially, but expect change.  Discovery's public announcements have emphasized a desire to strengthen the core brand.  Translate that into a return to the high profile specials that have gone missing the last few years. 

In addition, it's fairly easy to predict a commissioning strategy that will key on timeslot needs more so than the past.  Keep an eye on CU's grid for insights on what timeslots prove to have the largest appetite. It's probably safe to assume that Science Channel will start to operate more openly as a feeder network to the mothership.  If getting into Discovery proves a challenge, try Science.  You might find it to be an easier route to the flagship.

Budgets are in the $250,000 range (and lately, higher) per hour for prime (plus or minus, and plus a lot for the blue chip ones, of course, dinosaurs, volcanoes, CGI-filled things).  Series are under $150k per half-hour.  This varies according to their level of financing, international interest, whether they commission it or not, and a multitude of other negotiable and non-negotiable factors.