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.
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.
APRIL 2013 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live + SD Primetime Ratings Comparison / April 2013 vs. April 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. April 2013 saw the premiere of BRAIN GAMES and THE 80s: THE DECADE THAT MADE US. Overall, primetime numbers were up compared to last year, though there was some slip in Men 18-49, which fell 4%.
BRAIN GAMES debuted on Monday, 4/22/13. The night had strong year-to-year growth in the younger male demos, and was the second strongest of the week for NGC. ARE YOU TOUGHER THAN A BOY SCOUT continued to struggle early in the month, but it was offset by very strong performances by a marathon of 80s: THE DECADE THAT MADE US, and the premiere episodes of BRAIN GAMES on 4/22.
THE 80s debuted on Sunday 4/14, and helped contribute to year-to-year growth in the younger demos for the night. The series performed above primetime average, and Sunday nights were the strongest of the week for NGC. The series appeared on a few other nights during the week, and scored well throughout the month. Sunday nights were also boosted by strong perforamnces by WICKED TUNA. TUNA more than doubled average in premieres during the month.
Wednesday nights saw strong numbers, as overall HH viewers grew 35% compared to April 2012. LOCKED UP ABROAD continues to score big for the network, and a strong performance by a special, RUSSIA'S TOUGHEST PRISONS, helped contribute to the growth as well.
Thursday nights also saw year-to-year growth, though re-airs of WICKED TUNA hovered around the primetime averages. Fridays were down, though a special, AMERICA BEFORE COLUMBUS, which aired on Friday 4/5, scored well.
Saturday's lineup of ALASKA STATE TROOPERS and re-airs of WICKED TUNA also brought in solid numbers, and drove the night up 18% compared to last year.
With the great numbers scored by KILLING LINCOLN in February, 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.