Discovery Analysis - June 2010

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JUNE 2010 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:

* Bold denotes programming change

SCHEDULING STRATEGIES:

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.

JUNE 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

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

HH

M18-49

M25-54

Monday 8-11pm

-8%

-3%

-4%

Tuesday 8-11pm

-3%

-24%

-9%

Wednesday 8-11pm

-8%

-14%

-8%

Thursday 8-11pm

-11%

-18%

-15%

Friday 8-11pm

-3%

7%

9%

Saturday 8-11pm

-22%

-21%

-17%

Sunday 8-11pm

-13%

-18%

-13%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

-8%

-15%

-9%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

Good news is that June was better than May.  Following a pattern we've seen in recent years, adult ratings were up 12% over last month.  A strong April with the return of DEADLIEST CATCH, a dip in May with broadcast finales, then a rise in June.  Median age was also down a bit this month, reversing an aging trends we've seen since

Unfortunately, there's not a whole lot of a good news elsewhere on the net.  Year on year numbers are down again, a little more than 10% in the target demos, and most of it coming from men.  Five of the seven nights are down, with only Monday and Friday resisting the urge to fall backwards.  Median age, while up from last month, is still up significantly (6%) from year ago.  Tuesday and Thursdays are the biggest contributors to the aging process.

As is customary this time of year, let's begin with DEADLIEST CATCH and its companion AFTER THE CATCH.  Top rated series for the month.  Every Tuesday premiere lands in Top 10 telecast list of the month.   Tuesday night ratings double the schedule average for June.  That's dominance.  However, despite the dominance, there's continues to be slippage from last year.  Adult demos are down 10-20% compared to year ago.  Further, Tuesdays, with their full stacks of the series, and Thursdays, dominated by repeats, are now the two oldest nights of the week, a consequence of its own popularity. 

MYTHBUSTERS continues to keep Wednesdays the youngest night on the schedule.  In fact, Wednesday is so much younger than the rest of the net, it's an island unto itself right now.  A full month of premieres did well, pushing the series above net averages for the month.  Repeats, as usual, fell down a bit, but still hold their own across the week.  Year ago comparisons, unfortunately, aren't so solid.  Adult demos are down 15-20% versus last June.

Wednesday's other two series struggled.  A couple premieres of WEIRD OR WHAT at 8pm were up 15% over last month's numbers.  That's good.  But, with last month's numbers pretty low, the actual delivery figures are still well below average, making it a tough lead-in for MYTHBUSTERS to work from.  At 10pm, last month's newest series was quietly yanked from the night and moved to Saturday, traditionally a graveyard for weaker properties. 

DUAL SURVIVAL debuted on Friday nights at 10pm.  Still a little early to tell, but the new property gives the programmers several reasons to smile.  Series delivers the strongest adult numbers for the night, and appears to improve nicely on its lead-in.  Fridays are up from last year as a direct result.  True, the night is still the lowest rated on the schedule, and DUAL SURVIVAL underperforms the schedule's overall averages, but it's a big step in the right direction.

Monday nights are filled with mini-marathons of veteran for three weeks with solid results.  Two new series were introduced the last week of June.  In the tradition of MONSTER GARAGE and AMERICAN CHOPPER, gearhead returns to Monday nights in full force with ULTIMATE CAR BUILD-OFF at 9pm and HEARTLAND THUNDER at 10pm.  Unfortunately, neither series could bring the audiences to the table.  Both finished below network average for the month, notably with men.   

Sundays continue to struggle in a post LIFE world.  Night was down more than 10% from May, which was already down from April.  It was also down 15% plus from last year.  A last minute mini-stack of MYTHBUSTERS on the final Sunday kept the fall from being even worse.

Finally, June marked the network's 25th Anniversary.  In celebration, the channel featured a week of specials geared mostly around recent series with a bit of nostalgia tossed in for good measure.  Result were largely mixed with performances holding true to current successes on the channel.  Special episodes of DEADLIEST CATCH and MYTHBUSTERS were strong as expected.  DIRTY JOBS was about average.  DISCOVERY SAVED MY LIFE, a really neat concept featuring stories from viewers on the influence of the channel, failed miserably on a Friday night.  25 YEARS OF DISCOVERY, a Sunday night event special, also underdelivered 25-30% versus net averages.  The well produced special featured highlights from the last few years of the HD era, with only one pre-2000 program showing up in the hour.

CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:

The last few months haven't been so great, but this is still one of the best brands in the business.  The most households, the widest global reach, the greatest prestige.  They'll commission it, co-produce it, acquire it, license it, merchandise it, take it around the world.....you 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 and we expect it will continue in full force in the coming months.

With 2010 comes a new year and another round of new management. Longtime veteran Clark Bunting returned to the channel after a six year hiatus and he's bringing management of diginet Science Channel with him.  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. Still, be selective when pitching just the brand.  Ratings still pay the bills and they're not going to compromise on that front.

Personnel changes have been expedient and numerous.  New heads of Current Series and Specials have been named.  A new Programming head has been brought over from one of the digital channels.  The Los Angeles development team has departed and replacements were just announced.  A new Marketing chief is the latest addition, along with a new COO. 

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 per hour for prime for the flagship.  Series can be  $150k or more per half-hour.  It 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. 

At the Discovery Upfront, the channel announced an ambitious slate of new programming for the 2010-2011 season.  Among the highlights were the specials CURIOUSITY: THE QUESTIONS OF LIFE, HUMAN PLANET, EARTH FROM SPACE, REIGN OF THE DINOSAURS, THE RISING: REBUILDING GROUND ZERO, ENGINEERING THE IMPOSSIBLE, and the return of SHARK WEEK.  New series included WORST CASE SCENARIO, hosted by Bear Grylls, and CONSTRUCTION INTERVENTION, both of which premiered in 2nd Quarter, 2010, well ahead of the actual upfront season.  Continuing series included DEADLIEST CATCH, DIRTY JOBS, MAN VS. WILD, MYTHBUSTERS, STORM CHASERS, and THE COLONY.

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