History Channel Analysis - March 2010

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MARCH 2010 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:

* Bold denotes programming change

SCHEDULING STRATEGIES:

Vestiges of the MODERN MARVELS strip still run at 8pm on several nights.  Premiere series tend to run at 9pm, with 10pm reserved for encore plays and/or established inventory series.  Thematic evenings take over on the weekend.  Network tends to run two hour event docs on Saturday.  Sundays have become the home for the umbrella theme "American Originals", including ICE ROAD TRUCKERS and AX MEN.  Specials can be inserted on Sunday evenings without breaking the flow of the regular schedule. Stability has been the hallmark of the schedule.  Multiple episode series and very few changes give the viewer several opportunities to find their programs and develop a pattern of appointment viewing.

MARCH 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

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

HH

M18-49

M25-54

Monday 8-11pm

136%

140%

136%

Tuesday 8-11pm

-5%

-15%

-6%

Wednesday 8-11pm

-19%

-27%

-18%

Thursday 8-11pm

27%

13%

13%

Friday 8-11pm

-3%

11%

2%

Saturday 8-11pm

-14%

-37%

-24%

Sunday 8-11pm

17%

28%

31%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

20%

22%

22%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

How do you follow the highest rated month in the channel's history?  You do it again.  The History express keeps on rolling in March.  Network press declares it the highest rated month total viewers, adults, and men.  Annual increases for target men exceeded 20%, as did the numbers for adults 18-49 and 25-54.  But wait, there's more.  Record month rounds out a record quarter.  Highest rated quarter of all time per the network, increasing as much as 15% in key demos over same time last year. 

PAWN STARS tops the list once again, delivering almost double the network average for target men in both age breaks.  The top three telecasts and 14 of the top 20 were PAWN STARS this month.  Monday night premieres seemed to be setting records every week.  Even repeats else later in the week outperformed most series.  The network's press declares PAWN STARS as the #1 series on cable for Adults 25-54.

AMERICAN PICKERS garnered numbers such that it would be the highest rated series on several cable nets.  With PAWN STARS around, it's not even the network's top series on Monday nights.  Still, it too outdelivered the schedule's averages for men by 80% or more.  Full month of premieres and all of them landed in the Top 20 telecasts.  Network press places it among the top 5 series on cable for Adults 25-54. 

With such an overwhelmingly dominant Monday, it feels like the rest of the schedule fades in the background.  Not quite.  AX MEN grabbed above average numbers for target men, highlighted by three weeks of premieres on Sundays.  In addition, all demos are up over last March.  Most important, target men for the series are up 10-15% from last March.

FOOD TECH, MONSTERQUEST, GANGLAND, and LIFE AFTER PEOPLE all landed below network averages.  With such a disproportionately dominant Monday, it makes better sense to grade their performance on curve these last couple months.  FOOD TECH bounced back from a horrible February, although we're still not sure this one's a keeper.  MONSTERQUEST also got a bounce from February, but the network's shifting editorial style probably means this is the final season for the investigative series.  GANGLAND  was actually down from February and last year with just a single premiere on the schedule.  Probably needs a little rest, but it deserves another season.  LIFE AFTER PEOPLE wrapped its second season in solid fashion.  We hope it comes back for another year.  Great show.

April brings the long awaited AMERICA: THE STORY OF US.  As of this writing, the opening numbers are in and there's some happy people on 45th Street in the Big Apple.  Highest rated single program of all time.  By far.  More analysis on the impact in this space next month.

CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:

Strategic Opportunities:

Series are the name of the game.  While the network has had many years of steady growth, they had been searching for a breakout franchise that could stand above everything else.  ICE ROAD TRUCKERS brought just that a couple years ago.  Now, PAWN STARS and AMERICAN PICKERS take on the same label, but in a format that can go year round.  Hosted series remain a big focus of the network.  Until recently, formats have been the domain of sister network A&E.  Not any more.

Take what is "old" and make it "new" again. This is what keeps History hot with its core audience of males 25-54... Take a current technology or modern day event and link to its origins. Shows on technology are always a draw for History's viewers. Uniting modern science with its origins is what makes up just about all of their tech-based shows. THE UNIVERSE, LIFE AFTER PEOPLE, HOW THE EARTH WAS MADE have all had some pretty good runs on the channel.

History attracts a strong male audience that is otherwise tough to capture by a non-sports network. Male hosts and male experts have obvious appeal to History's viewers and male viewers in general. This also says something about the subject matter and type of content that appeals to this viewer: viewers are already familiar with the general topics covered in the programs, yet are given new information in an entertaining format.

Specials are taking a larger role on the channel.  The occasional Sunday or Monday opens up for two hour single topic special programs.   Saturdays have been dominated by repeats of the same specials, freeing up resources for regular series elsewhere.

Important:

Despite rumors to the contrary, "traditional" history remains at the heart of the channel.  Ancient times, military topics, archive based, they're all there.  The difference now is that they balance the network, but don't dominate it.  Shape your program pitches accordingly.

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