Travel Channel Analysis - November 2010 - Broadcasting & Cable

Travel Channel Analysis - November 2010

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NOVEMBER 2010 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:

* Bold denotes programming change

SCHEDULING STRATEGIES:

The schedule is built around a handful of key series at 9pm or 10pm, complemented by repeats of the same on the same night.  Monday features ANTHONY BOURDAIN and ANDREW ZIMMERN BIZARRE FOODS.  Wednesday is MAN VS FOOD, and Friday is GHOST ADVENTURES.  The remaining nights feature an occasional series such as 101 TASTIEST PLACES TO CHOW DOWN or SAMANTHA BROWN, but the overwhelming majority of the timeslots are filled with single hour programs.  Thematic stacks and diverse topics, premieres and repeats, they're all mixed throughout the one up portion of the schedule.  It remains one of the few non-fiction based network schedules with a large number of one up programs in basic cable.

NOVEMBER 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

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

HH

A18-49

A25-54

Monday 8-11pm

-4%

0%

-10%

Tuesday 8-11pm

-14%

20%

6%

Wednesday 8-11pm

-11%

-11%

-14%

Thursday 8-11pm

9%

31%

13%

Friday 8-11pm

-7%

-16%

-24%

Saturday 8-11pm

-16%

-19%

-18%

Sunday 8-11pm

-7%

0%

0%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

-3%

0%

-10%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

For the first time in a long time, the network falls from prior year numbers.  Both age breaks, men and women, as well as total viewers all dropped from year ago.  Hard to afix blame on any single series.  Losses were spread across the week.  On the positive, the network did get younger.  Median age is down considerably these last few months as "traditional" travel programming fades from view. 

Top performer in November was GHOST ADVENTURES.  Premiere episodes on Fridays at 9pm took the top four spots on the schedule for the month.  Repeats, although not up to the premiere standard, we solid as well, pulling above average audiences.  Unfortunately, the rest of Friday night's offerings didn't cooperate.  GHOST STORIES at 10pm failed to hold the lead-in and was pulled in favor of more GHOST STORIES.  Too little, too late it appears.  Friday night was down in the key A25-54 demo by 24% from last year, and 16% from just last month. 

The traditional star of the schedule, MAN VS FOOD, was shining bright most of the time.  Wednesday premieres were very good.  Even Wednesday repeats are solid, sometimes outdrawing the premieres.  Move away from Wednesday, and it's a crap shoot.  Thursday 8pm runs were just OK.  The Thanksgiving marathon had it's moments, but they were few.  A Saturday stack died, but a Sunday stack was fine.  In the end, over 1/4 of the entire schedule was MAN VS FOOD.  It may finally be taking its toll.  Series was down 33% from last year and nearly 20% from October.  We're thinking that Adam could use a break.

A few new programs popped up this month.  MYSTERIES OF THE MUSEUM on Tuesdays at 9pm drew just above average, although repeats at 8pm did just the opposite.  Overall, the series lands just below the network average for the month.  The mini-series, WORLD'S WORST WEATHER, was given an entire Sunday night to start the month and promptly took over the spot for lowest rated series of the month, never to relinquish it.  WEATHER barely scraped together enough viewers to reach half the schedule's average for the month. 

FIRST ASCENT received some good press when announced, but it didn't translate to building an audience.  4 episodes stacked on a Thursday night started off OK and then steadily dropped over the next two hours.  Ends up the 2nd lowest rated series on the schedule, only behind the aforementioned WORLD'S WORST WEATHER.

Another new entry, WHEN VACATIONS ATTACK, fared much better.  Only one week of numbers to gauge thus far, but they're promising.  The video clip based series drew well above average with its Sunday, 8pm debut.  While a repeat two hours later wasn't so great, the opening numbers give us reason to think this one could hang in there for a few rounds.

Finally, BOURDAIN and ZIMMERN were in repeat modes this month and it shows.  Target adults were off 20% and 13% respectively from last year.  Bring on some more premieres. 

CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:

The network could use some fresh titles and a little diversity.  A couple of anchor series are carrying the current schedule and that can't last much longer.  From where we sit, we're not seeing a whole lot on the near horizon right now.  In the last year, the network has become almost all food all the time.  At least that's the perception created with all of the food series dominating the channel headlines.  As part of the Scripps family, it's likely the channel will seek out concepts that embrace travel without food at the center.  Scripps already has two networks devoted to the genre and they probably weren't looking to buy another one.

They see Travel as Lifestyle, consistent with their current network offerings.  While some of that is classic PR spin, there's a lot of truth to it. We also expect that they'll go towards more series and less one-offs consistent with most Scripps nets.

On the subject of travel, Travel Channel IS the category.  Other networks may have it as a subcategory, or as a component of a series, but here, it's the core of most everything they do.  No other network directly competes with them, but rather, nibbles around the edges of some of their genre and certainly audience.

They tend to quote three Key Points for what the channel takes into consideration when evaluating any idea:

- Lust for life - Immersion and exploration - Credible authorship

Lately, an accompanying internet component is not only necessary, it is deemed MANDATORY!  Take a look at their website:  you almost have to hunt for the TV part.

KEEP THIS IN MIND:

Programs usually need a host...make sure they have "a lust for life" and are "credible and IMPASSIONED INSIDERS" (their emphasis).  Programs should be "immersive" (literally defined as "a 3D image that seems to surround the viewer").   "What is the driving force?  What is the story arc?  What is the holy shit factor?"  BTW, good direction for any idea! "INSIDER" SERIES; ANTHROPOLOGY; ARCHAEOLOGY; ARCHITECTURE get $140-200k/hour.

Stay away from stories that are too personal(translation: vacation videos); overly formatted series; gimmicks;  competition programs; serialized formats and programs;  talent that's mere talent ("all hair and teeth") and not credible; docusoaps and pure reality shows.

What Travel does want is "sticky" take-away information; authentic travel experiences;  programs that transport the viewer;  visually appealing images; self-contained episodes (see: no serials); multi-platform opportunities (see: internet); articulate, knowledgeable talent.  And getting younger men is a part of all of this. They're now advertising an HD feed, so it wouldn't hurt to consider what makes a good HD travel show either.

And don't forget the website as a jumping off point for ideas....it plays to a younger audience, and has a retail connection (tools, trips, etc.).  Travel needs your mind on that as you submit program ideas.

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