Who’s Hot? Who’s Not!! U.S. Factual Channel Viewing, 4Q’12 versus 4Q’11. Takeaway: ‘Discovery Looks Snappy!’

Which U.S. Factual channels are gaining or losing prime time viewers year-to-year?

Here is the big highlight: Discovery Networks is back!!

  • Discovery’s Crime-targeted ID channel is up 114,000 (25%) and takes the #1 spot on our list of factual channels that gained viewers.
  • ID continues to impress with its crystal-clear branding and a schedule filled with programs that convey the feeling that they just can’t wait to be watched by ID’s female-skewed audience.
  • The flagship Discovery Channel gained 106,000 viewers (11%).
  • OWN, Oprah’s recently drowning channel, gained 106,000 viewers, a 57% jump!
  • Science (26%) and male niche channel Velocity (38%) also impressed.
  • So did Animal Planet (11%).

Outside Discovery

USNetworks-Gains-4Q2012vs2011_Version3

METHODOLOGY

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

  • It includes channels that rarely stray out of non-scripted, for example Nat Geo and Discovery.
  • And others like A&E and MTV that include Scripted in the mix.

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

Quantity Not Quality

  • Most ad-supported channels sell media based on their target demos.
  • And networks tend to 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 very useful tool for gauging relative scale of viewing and trends.

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U.S. Factual Channels
$Average Quarterly Primetime Audience, 4Q’12 versus 4Q’11
( Viewers ‘000)

Rating 4Q’1 4Q’12 4Q’11 Change %
OWN 0.4          292 186          106 57%
OVATION 0.1            53 34            19 56%
H2 0.4         257 166            91 55%
VELOCITY 0.2            91 66            25 38%
BIO 0.3          212 160            52 33%
LOGO 0.1            51 40            11 28%
NAT GEO CHANNEL 0.5          428 340            88 26%
SCIENCE 0.3          234 186            48 26%
ID 0.7          562 448          114 25%
NAT GEO WILD 0.2          138 123            15 12%
ANIMAL PLANET 0.5          462 415            47 11%
DISCOVERY 1.1       1,060 954          106 11%
TLC 0.9          915 824            91 11%
TRAVEL 0.4          352 322            30 9%
WE 0.3         230 213            17 8%
MILITARY 0.3          153 142            11 8%
HISTORY 1.3      1,324 1,237            87 7%
DIY 0.2          103 97              6 6%
DISC FIT & HEALTH 0.2            87 84              3 4%
STYLE 0.2          158 153              5 3%
LIFETIME 1.0          968 961              7 1%
HGTV 0.9          893 891              2 0%
A&E 1.2      1,177 1,178           (1) 0%
OXYGEN 0.4         305 317          (12) -4%
BRAVO 0.8         783 822          (39) -5%
VH1 0.4          421 445          (24) -5%
BET 0.6          565 601          (36) -6%
TRU TV 0.7          689 733          (44) -6%
SPIKE 0.6         587 635          (48) -8%
MTV 0.7         657 761       (104) -14%
SYFY 0.8          826 964        (138) -14%
FOOD 0.8         778 925       (147) -16%
WEATHER 0.2          217 268          (51) -19%
E! 0.4          359 558        (199) -36%
CURRENT 0.1            34 56          (22) -39%
Factual Networks    16,421   16,305          116 1%

Source: Nielsen Media Research

HIGHLIGHTS

Scale

The channels in our sample with the largest audiences  (‘000):

  • History (1,324), A&E (1,177), Discovery (1,060), Lifetime (968) and TLC (915).
  • SyFy, MTV and HGTV dropped out of our Top 5.

Growth (%)

  • Top 5: OWN (57%), Ovation (56%), H2 (55%), Velocity (38%) and Bio (33%).
  • Ovation gained viewers (56%) but proving the rule that no good deed goes unpunished, the niche ‘Arts’ channel lost carriage on TimeWarner Cable systems and is said to be looking for a buyer.
  • Audience losers were: Al Gore’s hapless Current channel prior to its acquisition by Al Jazeera Americas (-39%), E! (199,000 viewers and -36%) and Weather (-19%).
  • Food was another big loser (-16%)

USNetworks-Losses-4Q2012vs4Q2011_Version3

 

The Factual Tide Keeps Rising – Barely!

  • The broad Unscripted category continues to grow at the expense of Scripted, News and other categories.
  • But only just: The year-to-year increase for DocumentaryTelevision.com’s bucket of basic factual channels was 1%.

Takeaways

  • A key trend for factual channels is that rather than cannibalize each other in a mature market, they are targeting the audiences for scripted entertainments on broadcast and cable/satellite channels by selectively developing dramatic content of their own.
  • At the Real Screen and Impact conferences, History presented promos for their new scripted series (Vikings and The Bible).
  • Meanwhile Discovery showed a compelling promo for a BBC-partnered docu-drama about the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster of 1986. William Hurt co-stars.
  • We will cover the shift to Scripted in detail after the AIDC Conference.

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Speaking Engagements

Australian International Documentary Conference (AIDC)
Adelaide, February 25-27

Grand Formats: IMAX & 3D
Peter Hamilton (IMAX)
Torsten Hoffmann (3D) 3D Content Hub
Tuesday February 26, 10:30-11:30 AM

What’s Next? Trends & Drivers in Factual Entertainment
Bernhard Sonnleitner, English Format Research, ProSieben Sat1
Ruth Wrigley, Head of Factual, All3Media
Anita Brown, Commissioning Editor Factual Entertainment, ABC
Patty Geneste, CEO, Absolutely Independent
Lisa Fitzpatrick, Head of Development & Production, Network Ten
Moderator: Peter Hamilton
Wednesday February 27, 2:00-3:00 PM

Workshop: How to Manage the Commissioning & Co-production Processes (wt)
Steve Burns & Peter Hamilton
Monday February 25, 10:00-11:30 AM