What was once a wildlife-centric channel has evolved into a much more mainstream entertainment platform. Skewing 60% male, 40% female, National Geographic Channel's primetime scheduled is anchored by original series and specials. Much like competitors Discovery and History, NGC of late has been focusing on male-skewing character-driven series. Also, crime-oriented series and specials remain a key component of the schedule, although a number of different factual genres are being explored. Ancient mysteries, contemporary fringe cultures and big science specials help round out the line-up. February 2013 saw the debut of the network's first original factual drama, KILLING LINCOLN, which set ratings records in its debut on Sunday, 2/17/13.
Repeats of the previous week's premiere episodes are likely to serve as the lead-in for the current week's premiere, providing the network with two-hour blocks of its top programming most nights.
FEBRUARY 2013 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live + SD Primetime Ratings Comparison / February 2013 vs. February 2012 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
In 2012, Nat Geo made it clear that they are expanding their brand and reach when it comes to factual content. This has paid off well for the network, whose scheduling strategy changes and programming choices have led to strong year-to-year growth.
February 2013 was all about Abraham Lincoln. This month saw the debut of the network's first original factual drama, KILLING LINCOLN, which set ratings records in its debut on Sunday, 2/17/13. The event scored "...stellar ratings that averaged a whopping 2.6 HH rating – tied for the second highest HH in network history – and a 1.1 P25–54 on Sunday, February 17, at 8 p.m. ET/PT. KILLING LINCOLN also averaged 3.4 million persons 2+ over the entire two-hour premiere, the highest total viewership in NGC’s history!" (Nat Geo Press Release, 2/18/13). The show drove Sunday nights up 51% in overall viewers, but also skewed more female and older than the network ordinarily does. In addition, a special on Friday 2/15, LINCOLN'S SECRET KILLER, brought in some of the top numbers for network this month, contributing to a big boost in Friday night's year-to-year average.
Despite Sunday's growth, Monday nights in February saw the most significant growth out of any night of the week. Mondays were up 68% in overall viewers, and even more among the male demographics. ALASKA STATE TROOPERS, which continues to dominate in the ratings, and a strong performance for the debut of series INSIDE COMBAT RESCUE, contributed to the increases.
Tuesday and Wednesday nights were both down compared to both last year, and last month. DIGGERS, which started off strong last month, has slipped a bit since January, and numbers hovered around average and below for both DIGGERS and DOOMSDAY PREPPERS.
Wednesday nights were down 16% compared to last year, and 10% from January. Both LORDS OF WAR and HIGHWAY THROUGH HELL struggled throughout the month, and nothing - not even reruns of ALASKA STATE TROOPERS, was able to hit network average.
Re-airs and a haphazard schedule contributed to year-to-year losses on Thursdays in February, while Saturdays were up, thanks to more ALAKSA STATE TROOPERS reairs.
With the great numbers scored by KILLING LINCOLN, we expect more in the scripted genre from Nat Geo. As several of its competitors also start actively producing in this space, it's going to be a battle of marketing strategy, scheduling, and ultimately, quality of production, that emerge on top. The remainder of 2013 will undoubtedly be an exciting year for Nat Geo.