U.S. Non-fiction Networks: Who’s Hot? Oprah’s OWN is the Hottest of them All!! / Real Screen Workshop

The tide of Unscripted US networks keeps on rising – up 5% for our bucket 0f factual channels year-to-year.

But the boats are not all rising equally. Some are defying gravity and taking on water.

Here is the data and my topline impressions on the Factual channels that are gaining or losing ‘average prime time viewers.’

HIGHLIGHTS

Audience Gains and Losses by percentage

Three highlights from among the winners are:

Oprah’s OWN

  • OWN (+55%) is getting better and better at serving its target African-American female audience with positive programming.
  • Welcome to Sweetie Pies is OWN’s most valuable nonfiction property. The season 3 premiere was the highest rated in the series history, though Tyler Perry is the biggest contributor to OWN’s turnaround.
  • After Discovery invested around a half billion to relaunch its Health channel in a JV with Oprah, the OWN programmers are now getting the branding/content mix ‘just right’ – and the operation is reported to be cash positive.

Welcome to Sweetie Pie's

Discovery

  • A terrific performance by Shark Week led Discovery’s welcome ratings comeback (+17%).
  • There was solid backing from Skywire Live and Naked and Afraid and others.
  • But I notice that Discovery’s 4Q 2013 ratings are not maintaining the surge.

A&E

  • Duck Dynasty is a mega hit and a trailblazer into ‘scripted unscripted.’
  • A quick glance across the rest of the schedule, and there’s not much else that’s rising at A&E (up 11%).
  • Meanwhile sister network History, which last year seemed to be heading into the stratosphere, is now grinding out modest gains (2%).
  • Takeaway:  It’s a ferocious battleground out there!

And highlights from the losers:

truTV

  • truTV (down 22%) imitated the formats of successful series on other channels, making them slightly trashier. (Pawn Stars / Hardcore Pawn)
  • However, as the original shows began to peak (for example, Pawn Stars and Storage Wars) the truTV knockoffs lost their sizzle.
  • It still surprises me that Turner created the vaguely-branded truTV out of Court TV, leaving Discovery to jump into the evergreen, female-appealing Crime genre by launching ID (+4%).
  • Another Takeaway: ID is no longer alone.  MSNBC, A+E Networks,  the broadcast networks and others are coming hard after ID’s Crime niche – and its producers!

 

U.S. Factual Channels
Average Quarterly Prime Time Audience
3Q’13 versus 3Q’12
(‘000)

Rating

Viewers

3Q’13

3Q’13

3Q’12

 +/-

%

OWN

0.5

426

 275

 151

55%

Discovery

1.0

958

 819

 139

17%

A&E

1.3

1,329

 1,200

 129

11%

Spike

0.7

690

 592

 98

17%

Animal Planet

0.6

551

 477

 74

16%

TLC

1.0

943

 876

 67

8%

WE

0.3

284

 221

 63

29%

HGTV

1.1

1,057

 999

 58

6%

H2

0.4

254

 201

 53

26%

BET

0.7

630

 581

 49

8%

IFC

0.2

128

 85

 43

51%

DIY

0.2

134

 96

 38

40%

MTV

0.7

716

 678

 38

6%

History

1.5

1,490

 1,458

 32

2%

Bio

0.4

249

 219

 30

14%

Velocity

0.2

118

 88

 30

34%

ID

0.7

 589

 568

 21

4%

Military

0.3

164

 145

 19

13%

Travel

0.4

351

 334

 17

5%

Fuse

0.1

45

 31

 14

45%

Nat Geo Wild

0.3

154

 142

 12

8%

Science

0.3

233

 225

 8

4%

Fit & Health

0.2

78

 71

 7

10%

Golf

0.1

123

 117

 6

5%

Logo

0.1

45

 39

 6

15%

Outdoor

0.1

39

 39

 –

0%

G4

0.2

96

 97

 (1)

-1%

GAC

0.1

44

 46

 (2)

-4%

Esquire

0.2

146

 155

 (9)

-6%

Oxygen

0.4

308

 319

 (11)

-3%

VH1

0.5

533

 545

 (12)

-2%

E!

0.4

528

 540

 (12)

-2%

Ovation

0.1

41

 59

 (18)

-31%

Nat Geo Ch

0.4

358

 380

 (22)

-6%

Food

0.9

860

 893

 (33)

-4%

Weather

0.2

169

 212

 (43)

-20%

SYFY

0.9

862

 984

 (122)

-12%

TruTV

0.7

647

 829

 (182)

-22%

Factual Nets

 16,370

 15,635

 735

5%

 

METHODOLOGY

Our bucket of channels is not apples-to-apples:

  • It includes channels that are dedicated to non-scripted, for example Nat Geo Wild and Discovery.
  • And others like A&E and MTV that include Scripted in the mix.
  • Some channels that schedule Factual are unrated, or were not rated last year.

Our quarterly, high-level snapshot is prepared with the assistance of John Morse, president of top research firm Byron Media.

Quantity Not Quality

  • Most ad-supported channels sell media based on their target demos.
  • And networks rate their performance (and those of their managers) quarter-to-quarter rather than year-to-year.
  • Nevertheless, our measure of the quarterly average prime time audience is a useful tool for gauging relative scale of viewing and year-to-year trends.

The Factual Tide Keeps on Rising and Rising…

  • The broad Unscripted category continues to grow at the expense of Scripted Entertainment, News, Kids and others.
  • The year-to-year increase for DocumentaryTelevision.com’s bucket of Basic factual channels was a steady 5%.

Additional research: Dana Bramble

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