National Geographic Channel Analysis - April 2010

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APRIL 2010 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:

* Bold denotes programming change

SCHEDULING STRATEGIES:

NGC continues to mix anthologies such as NAT GEO PRESENTS and EXPLORER with series both new (ALASKA STATE TROOPERS) and time-honored (DOG WHISPERER). Stunt scheduling utilizes multiple runs of popular series or thematically similar specials slotted to maximize audience flow.

Monday and Tuesday are anthology driven, while Wednesday is crime-oriented. Thursday remains Science & Technology-themed; Dog-related series dominate Friday; Saturdays now start with Natural History at 8p and Sundays are anthology slots used for specials, themed stacks and one-offs.

APRIL 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

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

   HH

P18-49

P25-54

Monday 8-11pm

-3%

-7%

-6%

Tuesday 8-11pm

9%

0%

0%

Wednesday 8-11pm

-4%

0%

0%

Thursday 8-11pm

4%

9%

0%

Friday 8-11pm

-14%

 -25%

-19%

Saturday 8-11pm

-5%

0%

0%

Sunday 8-11pm

-25%

-36%

-35%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

-7%

-14%

-12%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

NGC experienced its fourth consecutive month of year to year losses, led by Female viewers, who declined by one fifth from April 2009, as well as somewhat more modestly from March. Only Thursday saw modest demo growth from last year and last month. Looking at the Network skew for A18-49 in Prime, we can see it's gone from  60/40 in favor of Men in April 2009 to 64/36 this month. Not a huge shift, but may bear watching in light of the Women losses from last month as well.

Three of four Mondays featured a 3-hour block of the anthology series NAT GEO PRESENTS, with the first Monday of the survey offering a block of MYSTERIES OF THE BIBLE. This stunt earned the weakest Monday numbers for the month. Female demos were particularly impacted on Mondays, down 20% from last year and 10% from last month. Younger men were up 20%, though from March, with an Iraq-themed block of NAT GEO PRESENTS  drawing the most attention from this demo.

Tuesday grew slightly in HH over last year but was also down somewhat from last month, with the top offering a NAT GEO PRESENTS episode entitled Inside the Body of Henry VIII.

Wednesdays featured two hours of INSIDE followed by new series BREAKOUT at 10p. Despite BREAKOUT's ability to hold or improve its INSIDE lead-in, the night as a whole was down 25% for Feamle demos, but up 15-20% for Men.

Science-themed Thursday was up slightly from last month and last year, with new 10p entry KNOWN UNIVERSE generally holding its lead-in. An episode of NG PRESENTS on the history of the atom bomb earned particular favor among older men, while the EARTH DAY stunt on the final Thursday of the month basically equalled the night's average.

Replacing Friday's ususal domestic animal theme at 10p with Natural History and Anthropology led to the largest year-year weeknight losses of the month. Delivery was down by modest double-digits from March as well.

An episode of NG PRESENTS entitled Lost Gold of the Dark Ages was the standout Weekend performer, more than doubling the month's HH and demo averages. Saturday's ratings showed the greatest month-to-month declines of the month, while Sunday's annual losses deepened from those experienced in March 2010.

CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:

More theme nights and more series (or series-like) nights.  There's more of a predictability to the schedule than in the past...less reliance on a lot of one-offs.

Here are some tips for those of you on the production side:

Producers should not narrow themselves to the Travel and Natural History dimension of National Geographic, the Magazine. NGC has a very limited editorial relationship with the Magazine, and no current appetite for straightforward Travel series or specials. Look well beyond...and get to know their very diverse schedule.  Science drives it as much as anything. New insights to subjects that have been covered before are welcome. New research and discoveries, as well as new takes on traditional subject matter are welcome.

The key here for originals is a fully formed idea with all the sources (as credible as can be, because fact-checking is as thorough as it should be) and a story arc with new information along the way.  Key subject areas remain:  science, natural history, exploration, space, expeditions and history.  But if you thought crime was going down under the new regime, you'd be hard pressed to find evidence of it.

Very little on the acquired side, but they will take a look on anything that fits into their remit. 

While we've mentioned their need for series before, the recent ratings successes means more additional seasons for existing skeins (LOCKED UP, HOOKED) and less need for new series.  Event specials are always in favor...not live or anything, but 1- or 2-hour Blue Chip docs.  They still want "em.  The key is that there must be enough "substance" throughout the program to justify its length. NGC prides itself on "time spent viewing," so substantive information and action throughout is key to their evaluation of new projects. Regardless, it's the ol' "we want new info on familiar topics" that rules the day. "Big science" is at the top of their "needs" list.

Blue-chip Natural History will begin to migrate to NG Wild, which is replacing Fox Reality Channel in 2010. The ongoing success of DOG WHISPERER has led to similar appeal series about domestic animals - that sub-genre should remain viable for some time to come.

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