National Geographic Channel Analysis - November 2009

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Natgeo Primetime Schedule


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 utilzes multiple runs of popular seires or thematically similar specials slotted to maxoimize audience flow.

Monday and Tuesday are anthology driven, while Wednesday is crime-oriented. Thursday remains Science & Technology-themed with the debut of ULTIMATE FACTORIES at 8p in October. 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.


Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / November 2009 vs. November 2008  (% Change)




Monday 8-11pm




Tuesday 8-11pm




Wednesday 8-11pm




Thursday 8-11pm




Friday 8-11pm


18 %


Saturday 8-11pm




Sunday 8-11pm




MTWTFSS 8-11pm




Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

NGC's consistent growth throughout 3rd Quarter, which came to an abrupt halt in October, roared back in November, as 6 of 7 nights earned strong double-digit annual increases in HH and demos. Older adults were up by 1/3 over November 2008 and last month. Digging a bit deeper, we find that W25-54 were the biggest gainers, with Saturday runs of ALASKA STATE TROOPERS in the Super Saturday anthology earning particular favor among older Women.

The big event this month, EXPEDITION WEEK, ran SU - SA, November 15-21. Although its audience pull weakened as the stunt week progressed, it was, the highest rated November week for HH and demos: Compared to the other 4 weeks of the survey, EXPEDITION WEEK grew +20% for HH, +25% for P18-49, and a considerable +39% for P25-54. A Thanksgiving weekend stunt the following week, built around Americana, also scored well for the Network.

NGC PRESENTS was fairly consistent on Monday and Tuesday, where it generally runs for 4 hours from 8-10p. MARIJUANA NATION  and TITANIC: HOW IT REALLY SANK found particular favor with A25-54.

Monday's 10p run of HOOKED loses viewership from its NGC PRESENTS lead-in in most cases, leaving the night as the sole demo loser for November.

Wednesdays are launched by two hours of INSIDE, now followed by ALASKA STATE TROOPERS which continued premiering new episodes at 10p.The new series significantly improves its lead-in's HH and demo delivery at 10p.

Thursday's double-digit HH and demo growth is largely attributable to the EXPEDITION WEEK and Thanksgiving stunts. Specials on the Hubble tlescope and Niagara Falls stood out, particularly for A25-54, while the regularly scheduled series ULTIMATE FACTORIES, NGC SCI TECH and NAKED SCIENCE  remained consistent with their October delivery.

Friday's Thanksgiving Weekend stunt, entitled "American Made Event" nearly doubled the month's Friday average for A25-54, leading to strong growth for the night overall compared to last year. The performance of regularly scheduled canine-centric series, limited to the first 3 weeks of the survey, was driven by 9p DOG WHISPERER, now that newer entry RESCUE INK  is in re-runs. The latter series dropped 31% in HH delivery from its premiere-driven October numbers.

HH and demos continue to grow sharply Saturday, with episodes of ALASKA STATE TROOPERS performing well above average under the SUPER SATURDAY umbrella at 9p. THE WHALE THAT ATE JAWS was the top offering under the 8p WILD umbrella.

Sunday night's average rating benefited significantly from EXPEDITION WEEK, with a 9p offering of SEARCH FOR AMAZON HEADSHRINKERS earning particular favor.




Strategic Opportunities:

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 natural history dimension of National Geographic, the Magazine.  Look well beyond...and get to know their very diverse schedule.  Science drives it as much as anything. Again, lately,  the LOCKED UP/DOWN and all around are the most consistent performers.  As we've said before, Hitler usually does well.

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.  Without all of that, it will go through too many courteous meetings and reviews, trying to get it to what they need, and it's not, you'll get frustrated trying.  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.  That indie HORSEMEN movie coming up is an example


We've mentioned their need for series before, and that is their aim, too.  But don't discount "events"...not live or anything, but 2-hour Blue Chip docs.  They still want "em.  Regardless, that 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.

While HUMAN FOOTPRINT was a highly-promoted and anticipated one-off, as indicated above, it was the ol' reliables of LOCKED DOWN/UP, DOG WHISPERER. The ocassional Medical anamoly program can do very well too.

Don't forget spite of a sister international network with the name ADVENTURE, Nat Geo US is clearly NOT looking for adventure-ish programming.  Nix on travel, too.  And if you have animals, make sure they attack.

Plenty of opportunities for more takes on jails (especially) and that neo-crime stuff, if that's a direction they want.  Bikers and gangs could fill that gap.  Animals are fine, and DOG WHISPERER needs more character-driven programs surrounding him, if they're going to continue that show.

Didja see RealScreen a few months back?  Steve Burns shared his programming thoughts, the headlines and buzz phrases of which were:

"We're witnessing increased interest in the (natural history) genre." "We greenlit six new blue-chip natural history documentaries" (within his first weeks at Nat Geo) "I want to see things I haven't seen before, new discoveries and behaviors.  I ..want innovative visuals....and to be transported, because that's what our viewers expect." "Extraordinary photography and compelling storytelling."

And, recently in Variety (March 17-23) in an article penned by good guy, John Dempsey, Nat Geo GM Steve Schiffman reminds us all of the importance of accuracy around there:  "There's not one hour of content that gets on the network without careful review by our professionals for factual accuracy and appropriateness."  According to John (and an unnamed producer):  "(National Geographic Channel) insists on fully annotated scrips, with double sources for every fact".

So take it from very, very patient...and try to keep in mind:  This is a BRAND, with a capital "B"...and they really are good guys!