MARCH 2011 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:
* Bold denotes programming change
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 2011 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live Primetime Ratings Comparison /March 2011 vs. March 2010 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
March was another record month. Total viewers, both demos, both genders, all looking good over last year. The female skew is inching up just slightly as women are finding the channel, but not at the expense of the male audience. Most impressive stat: History was the #2 network for Adults 25-54 in all of cable. Yes, that's correct, #2. Better than all of the non-fiction nets, all of the lifestyle and women's channels, and almost every entertainment net. Only USA beats History in March.
Stepping back for a wider, the good news continues. First quarter was the channel's best quarter ever with major increases over 2010. Households were up 36%, and every adult/male demographic break was up more than 20%.
Turning to the individual series, the story remains much the same as we've seen in recent months. PAWN STARS is the #1 series. AMERICAN PICKERS is a close #2. Combined, they continue to dominate Monday night, and Monday continues to dominate. Truth be told, repeats abound across the schedule and don't do quite as well, but it's all relative. PAWN STARS was the #1 series on all of cable for A25-54. AMERICAN PICKERS is #3.
AX MEN is a cut above this month. Sunday night premieres were fantastic at 9pm. Repeats were just about network average at 8pm. Additional repeats on Thursdays landed well below average. Overall, the AX MEN was up a little more than 10% over last year.
TOP SHOT ran a full slate of premieres on Tuesdays at 10pm. By comparison to the big guns on the schedule, TOP SHOT falls back towards the pack. Relative to the schedule averages, and several other cable nets, it's a winner. Especially with the men. Audience numbers grew more 50% from February as the competitors are winnowed down to the final two.
ONLY IN AMERICA couldn't keep pace with its stellar debut in February. Target adults were down about 25%. Premieres are more than solid and few repeats struggled. Still, expect a renewal by season's end.
Specials this month included a Wednesday run of the mini-series UNDERWATER UNIVERSE. It underperformed the night and the month. The two hour special JOURNEY TO THE EARTH'S CORE pulled below average numbers as well. Looks like series carried the day in March.
CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:
Series are the name of the game. While the network had many years of steady growth, they were 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 are the 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, and now TOP GEAR 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 night 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.
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.