Who’s Hot? Who’s Not! U.S. Factual Channel Audiences, 2Q’13 vs. 2Q’12

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:

2Q13vs12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

METHODOLOGY

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
(‘000)

Rating Viewers
2Q’13 2Q’13 2Q’12 +/- %
WE 0.3 287 212 75 35%
OWN: OPRAH 0.4 321 245 76 31%
H2 0.4 284 235 49 21%
A&E 1.3 1,322 1,123 199 18%
NAT GEO WILD 0.2 139 120 19 16%
ID 0.7 580 526 54 10%
SCIENCE 0.3 220 200 20 10%
HGTV 1.0 1,002 914 88 10%
ANIMAL PLANET 0.6 577 536 41 8%
BIO 0.3 213 201 12 6%
DISCOVERY 0.9 892 848 44 5%
MILITARY 0.3 156 149 7 5%
TRAVEL 0.3 327 318 9 3%
NAT GEO 0.5 396 390 6 2%
OXYGEN 0.4 341 337 4 1%
TLC 0.8 796 801 -5 -1%
BET 0.6 554 571 -17 -3%
SYFY 0.9 861 900 -39 -4%
VH1 0.5 466 490 -24 -5%
E! 0.5 438 461 -23 -5%
FOOD 0.9 863 915 -52 -6%
BRAVO 0.8 784 832 -48 -6%
MTV 0.6 602 651 -49 -8%
DISC. FIT/HEALTH 0.2 81 88 -7 -8%
HISTORY 1.5 1,501 1,799 -298 -17%
OVATION 0.1 35 42 -7 -17%
CURRENT << 20 25 -5 -20%
STYLE 0.2 117 171 -54 -32%
Factual Networks 14,175 14,100 75 1%
 

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.

HIGHLIGHTS

The largest audience gainers in our sample are (‘000):

A&E

  • 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.’

HGTV

  • 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.

OWN

  • 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.

WE

  • 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?

H2

NOT SUCH GOOD NEWS!

Style Shuttered

  • 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.

History Peaked?

  • 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).

Ovation Targeted

  • 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!

Current Off

  • 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).

OTHERS

For scale purposes, here are 2Q’13 prime time average audiences for a selection of channels that screen reality and docs (Viewers / ‘000)…

Ratings Viewers
DIY 0.2 123
HBO 3.4 1,070
IFC 0.2 119
LOGO 0.1 52
MSNBC 0.5 484
USA 2.1 2,096
VELOCITY 0.2 118

 Additional Research: Alexander Watson

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