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Travel Channel Analysis - September 2010 - Broadcasting & Cable

Travel Channel Analysis - September 2010

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SEPTEMBER 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.

SEPTEMBER 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

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

HH

A18-49

A25-54

Monday 8-11pm

28%

36%

23%

Tuesday 8-11pm

-10%

6%

-5%

Wednesday 8-11pm

8%

12%

15%

Thursday 8-11pm

24%

50%

53%

Friday 8-11pm

17%

12%

11%

Saturday 8-11pm

8%

13%

11%

Sunday 8-11pm

-31%

-30%

-33%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

3%

11%

5%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

The steady move upward continues in September with increases across the board in all demos.  Men were relatively steady and women were up measurably (primarily a Friday night phenomena) for an overall rise in adults 18-49 and 25-54.  The rise in women also drew the network's male skew down to 51%, the lowest we've seen.  Month to month comparisons shows a slight dip from August.  For now we'll assume it's broadcast premieres later in the month. 

MAN VS FOOD tops everything, again and again.  Demos, ratings, shares, etc.  40 airings this month, practically a 1/4 of the entire schedule.  Yet again, the heavy use seems to have little impact on performance.  Target demos were up 4% over last year.  Wednesday premieres stand above the rest of the schedule as usual.  But we didn't say there was zero impact.  The series did come down 7% for 18-49 from August.  A speed bump?  Perhaps.  Way too early to declare it a trend.

GHOST ADVENTURES brought new episodes to the table in September and there were noticeable benefits.  Series finished above average for the month.  Year on year numbers were up slightly for 18-49, but the increases from August were significant.  Repeats been the greatest.  Looks like keeping the premieres coming is the answer, once again.

ANTHONY BOURDAIN NO RESERVATIONS brought three weeks of premieres to the table.  One week was stellar, the other two left something to be desired.  Net result was an average month for the anchor series.

FOOD WARS featured four weeks of premieres buried inside the MAN VS FOOD  airings on Wednesdays.  Apparently, it had a good influence on the series.  FOOD WARS lands at top 5 spot this month, showing massive improvement over August in the process.

Saturday and Sunday were filled with mini-stacks for various series repeats.  Neither night drew above average.  Could use some new blood here. 

Last year, October saw audience levels rise.  As long as MAN VS FOOD can keep going, matching those numbers shouldn't be too difficult.

CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:

With Scripps Networks acquiring a majority stake in Travel, change has come.  In April, Laureen Ong was named President of the network, with Jonathan Sichel taking the role of General Manager.  A new Head of Programming was named in June with the responsibility of bringing fresh series and bigger numbers.

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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