Which six U.S. channels in our Factual bucket gained or lost the most prime time viewers year-to-year through mid-2013 (%)?
Here’s the graphic:
Our bucket of channels is not apples-to-apples:
- It includes channels that focus on non-scripted, for example Nat Geo and Discovery.
- And others like A&E and MTV that include Scripted in the mix.
- Some important channels like Smithsonian that schedule docs and Factual are unrated, or were not rated last year.
Our quarterly, high-level snapshot is prepared with the assistance of John Morse, president of leading research firm Byron Media.
U.S. Factual Channels
Average Quarterly Prime Time Audience
2Q’13 versus 2Q’12
|NAT GEO WILD||0.2||139||120||19||16%|
Nielsen Media Research
Quantity Not Quality
- Most ad-supported channels sell media based on their target demos.
- Networks and managers rate their performance Q-to-Q rather than Y-to-Y, particularly if they are publicly-traded companies.
- 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 largest audience gainers in our sample are (‘000):
- 1,322, up 199. That’s huge!
- Surfing a wave led by the hit ‘scripted/unscripted’ series Duck Dynasty.
- Dynasty‘s season 4 opener in August ‘became the number one nonfiction series telecast in cable history with 11.8 million viewers tuning in.’
- 1,002, up 88.
- Proves that even in a housing slump, viewers are captivated by home improvement-themed Lifestyle programs.
- And that advertisers from all product categories are drawn to the ‘safe’ programming environment offered by Scripps Networks.
- 321, up 76.
- OWN’s stable management team gets it right and reaches operating breakeven after Discovery sinks half a billion dollars into their Oprah JV.
- 287, up 75.
- That’s a massive 35% year-to-year jump, but I’m not sure why.
- Maybe its getting the Bridezilla fundamentals right?
- Successfully rebranded, gaining distribution, and making steady (21%) advances in the programming mix.
- Check out our video of newly promoted H2 head programmer Paul Cabana at the 2013 Impact Conference.
- And come to WESTDOC next week when Paul is speaking on several panels including one for smaller-scale producers that I will be moderating.
NOT SUCH GOOD NEWS!
- Style paid the ultimate price for failing to capture an audience: parent NBCU closed it down!
- Style’s 76 million HH will be shifted to the new Male-targeted Esquire channel.
- NBCU are wisely re-focusing their Female-targeted efforts on their Oxygen and Bravo channels after concluding that Style was a weak brand and duplicative service.
- Style long ago wandered from its Fashion roots: its schedule features reruns of Sex and the City.
- Lost nearly 300,000 viewers in average prime time.
- Losses (%) were narrower in its target Male demo.
- This time last year, History seemed like a runaway train. It remains an enviable cash cow.
- Networks can’t accelerate forever: hit series like Pawn Stars reach maturity and the ferocious competition chips away at weaknesses.
- Plus: management focus shifts to other channels in the portfolio (E.g., Bio to be rebranded as a ‘Lifestyle’ network in 2014).
- Time Warner threw Ovation off its systems.
- The operators face declining video margins and cord-cutting, and are convinced that they’re over-paying for content.
- They are sending a message that they will get tough on programmers who they think are under-performing.
- Ovation is an enterprising, independently-owned Arts-themed channel — and therefore an easy target!
- And Al Gore finally admitted defeat with viewers but won big in the wallet department by selling Current to Al Jazeera America, which launched this month (more soon!).
THE FACTUAL BUCKET: BECOMING BLENDED
- Our 1% rise in average viewing indicates the days of milk and honey for the unscripted category are not over yet, even if we’re not experiencing the boom of previous year-to-year reports.
- And the whole Factual vs Scripted Channel Framework is becoming blurred as former nonfiction channels commission drama, and former scripted channels embrace reality. Not to mention that ‘Unscripted Reality’ now relies more on the writers’s room. (See Duck Dynasty).
For scale purposes, here are 2Q’13 prime time average audiences for a selection of channels that screen reality and docs (Viewers / ‘000)…
Additional Research: Alexander Watson
International Documentary Buyers’ Guide, 2013-2014
- 95 Channels and Slots.
- 100+ Buyers & Key Contacts.
- 16 Countries.
- The slots.
- The deciders.
- Their filters.