National Geographic Channel Analysis - April 2011

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APRIL 2011 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:

* Bold denotes programming change

SCHEDULING STRATEGIES:

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

Monday and Tuesday are generally 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.

These theme nights will evolve throughout 2011, as all animal-related programming, including long-running hit DOG WHISPERER, migrate to sister network National Geographic Wild.

APRIL 2011 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / April 2011 vs. April 2010  (% Change)

HH

P18-49

P25-54

Monday 8-11pm

-21%

-29%

-35%

Tuesday 8-11pm

0%

-18%

-21%

Wednesday 8-11pm

-4%

-21%

-19%

Thursday 8-11pm

-7%

-33%

-8%

Friday 8-11pm

-12%

22%

0%

Saturday 8-11pm

5%

0%

0%

Sunday 8-11pm

-6%

0%

-5%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

-8%

-8%

-13%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

Following February's modest growth in HH and older adults,  National Geographic Channel experienced modest year-to-year-losses in March and April. Significant demo losses  Monday through Thursday  were partially countered by growth on Friday. HH and demos were down by similar percentages from last month.

NGC's key scheduling stunt this survey was Expedition Week, which ran SU-SA the week of April 3. The repeat-heavy stunt equaled April's HH average, with top titles including EATING WITH CANNIBALS and EGYPT'S LOST PYRAMIDS. New series SHARK MEN premiered at 10pm on Sunday, and was the highest rated series for the month in HH and demos.

Monday remains anthology-driven, with a repeat of the previous night's EATING WITH CANNIBALS from Expedition Week the top offering of the month.

While new series HARD TIME dramatically improved  Tuesday's younger demo delivery at 10pm in March, replacing it with EXPLORER in April saw those demos decline by 1/3 from last month. Tuesday's HH Rating highlight was a block of investigation specials dealing with Presidents Washington and Lincoln.

BEAST HUNTER was pulled from Wednesdays at 10pm following its weak debut in March, replaced by a third run of INSIDE.  The premiere of  WITNESS: DISASTER IN JAPAN was not only the top offering for the night, bu also the number 1 telecast for the entire schedule in April.  Demos down by modest double-digit percentages across the board from last year, but female demos were up sharply from March. In addition to the episode about Japan, two episodes of INSIDE  about life in prison found favor among female viewers.

Thursday's Science-themed block struggles for viewership, with annual demo losses for the tenth straight month. Former 10pm occupant ULTIMATE FACTORIES was replaced by the second hour of 9-11pm NGC SCI-TECH presentations. An Earth Day block on the final Thursday of the survey essentially equaled the time period averages.

Fridays were revamped for the second month in a row, with 8pm FISH WARRIOR now followed by HOOKED, replacing  BEAST HUNTER at 9pm.  This led to Men demos growing by strong double-digit percentages from last year, with Women growing from March.

Saturday was flat for all demos from last month and last year, as WILD JUSTICE and SHARK MEN continued to fill most of the anthology slots this night.  GREAT EXPEDITIONS at 8pm under-delivered the nightly average.

Sunday was also basically flat with last year and last month as well. A third run of WITNESS: DISASTER IN JAPAN (this time running in the NAT GEO PRESENTS anthology) was the top rated offering this night.

CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:

In their 2011-12 Upfront presentation National Geographic Channel announced the next evolutionary step in their thematic approach to scheduling. Their new series all fall into one of the following thematic pillars: Adrenaline, Extreme Engineering, Great Quests, News, Preserve Our Planet and Sci-Tech.

Natural History and domestic animal programming will air exclusively on NG Wild.

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

Series should have significant takeaway and be about meaningful subjects. Danger and adventure for their own sake won't work for NGC; it must be in the service of a larger purpose.

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, engineering, exploration, space, expeditions and history.  Crime and law enforcement are also still strong subjects, but the network claims to have no immediate need for more.

There is always an appetite for "Big Science" topics done in an entertaining and contemporary manner. The key is to make it immersive and experiential.

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

Since several recently-launched series have not met the threshold for renewal (including DOGTOWN, FIGHT SCIENCE, and RESCUE INK UNLEASHED,)  there is a need for 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 is migrating to NG Wild, which replaced Fox Reality Channel in March, 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.

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