U.S. Cable Networks: What do Males want? Content? Or Entertainment? Who’s delivering which?

We have been listening for years to commissioners of Factual channels who are seeking Male viewers, and we never expected to hear, as we did recently: “We want to be near Comedy Central.”

So we assembled a chart that places 16 U.S. Factual networks on a spectrum between:

Here’s how we place them:

Viewing

To give you a sense of scale, here is the 2Q average prime time viewing data for many of these channels. Note: these are viewers and not the targeted Male demo.

2Q11

 

Rating

Viewers

TRU TV

0.8

765

HISTORY

1.6

1,578

SCIENCE

0.3

187

ANIMAL PLANET

0.5

482

DISCOVERY

0.9

946

HISTORY 2

0.3

159

TRAVEL

0.4

360

NAT GEO

0.4

302

NAT GEO WILD

0.2

87

MILITARY

0.3

145

Takeaways

1. Overall, the tide is running strong from Right to Left. It has been for the best part of a decade.

2. Several channels are held back from making the leap across the spectrum towards the “Comedy Central Male”

  • For example, Travel Channel needs to keep its existing viewers happy.
  • Discovery is somewhat constrained by its flagship brand…
  • … And Nat Geo by its brand and the “yellow borders” heritage of the blue chip Nat Geo Society, which is a 50/50 partner in the channel with the controversial Rupert Murdoch-dominated News Corp.

3. History is the channel that nailed the journey from Content to Entertainment:

  • History was once dubbed the “Hitler Channel” because it appealed to the aging male demo that loved content-driven docs and series about WW2.
  • History successfully introduced the working-class reality adventure series Ice Road Truckers, and then hit home runs with Pawn Stars, American Pickers and American Restoration.
  • These programs appealed to the established audience, and yet attracted a horde of younger viewers who were drawn to their blue collar, expert talent and the “yard sale” message that fits America’s never-ending hard times.
  • Pawn Stars drove History up into the highest ranks of cable channels.

4. Military Channel, the Smithsonian Channel and other niche programmers are finding room to grow in the much-diminished “Content-driven” space.

What do you think? Send us your comments.

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