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National Geographic Channel Analysis - March 2011


* Bold denotes programming change


NGC continues to mix anthologies such as NAT GEO PRESENTS and EXPLORER with series both new (FISH WARRIOR) and time-honored (DOG WHISPERER). Stunt scheduling utilizes multiple runs of popular series or thematically-similar specials slotted to maximize audience flow.

Monday and Tuesday are generally anthology driven, while Wednesday is crime-oriented. Thursday remains Science & Technology-themed; Dog-related series dominate Friday; Saturdays now start with Natural History at 8p and Sundays are anthology slots used for specials, themed stacks and one-offs.

These theme nights will evolve throughout 2011, as all animal-related programming, including long-running hit DOG WHISPERER, migrate to sister network National Geographic Wild.


Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / March 2011 vs. March 2010  (% Change)

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

Following February's modest growth in HH and older adults,  National Geographic Channel experienced modest year-to-year-losses in March. Significant demo losses on Monday, Wednesday, also experienced in February  were partially countered by equally dramatic growth on Sunday. HH and demos were down by similar percentages from last month.

NGC's key scheduling stunt this survey was a block of MYSTERIOUS SCIENCE the third Monday of the survey. The stunt essentially equaled the night's HH and demo average. The night was down significantly from last month, although not as sharply as when compared to losses from last year, which continued for the third month in a row.

While new series HARD TIME dramatically improves  Tuesday's younger demo delivery at 10pm, the night overall was essentially flat with last March. All demos were down by significant double-digit percentages from last month.

Wednesdays were hurt by the debut of BEAST HUNTER, which did not equal INSIDE's numbers at 10pm starting week 3 of the survey.  The night was down by significant double-digit percentages across the board from last month.

Thursday's Science-themed block struggles for viewership, with annual demo losses for the ninth straight month. Premiering series ULTIMATE FACTORIES remained the highest rated series for the night among M25-54. The night was up sharply in Female demos from last month.

Fridays were completely revamped, with FISH WARRIOR and BEAST HUNTER premieres leading to Men demos growing by strong double-digit percentages from last year, as well as from February.

Saturday was flat for all demos from last year, as ALASKA STATE TROOPERS continued to fill most of the anthology slots this night. This led to significant HH and female demo losses from similar programming in February. A repeat block of GREAT MIGRATIONS under-delivered the nightly average.

ALASKA STATE TROOPERS combined with two specials, FINDING ATLANTIS and COUNTDOWN TO CATASTROPHE: MEGA QUAKE (the latter running in the NG PRESENTS skein,) to have a strong positive effect on Sunday's viewership. Although  earning the strongest annual HH and demo growth of the week, the night was essentially flat with February's demo delivery, although up modestly for HH Rating.

Overall,  ALASKA STATE TROOPERS occupied 50% of Weekend Prime in March and was NGC's top-rated series overall.


In their 2011-12 Upfront presentation National Geographic Channel announced the next evolutionary step in their thematic approach to scheduling. Their new series all fall into one of the following thematic pillars: Adrenaline, Extreme Engineering, Great Quests, News, Preserve Our Planet and Sci-Tech.

Natural History and domestic animal programming will air exclusively on NG Wild.

Here are some tips for those of you on the production side:

Series should have significant takeaway and be about meaningful subjects. Danger and adventure for their own sake won't work for NGC; it must be in the service of a larger purpose.

Producers should not narrow themselves to the Travel and Natural History dimension of National Geographic, the Magazine. NGC has a very limited editorial relationship with the Magazine, and no current appetite for straightforward Travel series or specials. Look well beyond...and get to know their very diverse schedule. Science drives it as much as anything. New insights to subjects that have been covered before are welcome. New research and discoveries, as well as new takes on traditional subject matter are welcome.

The key here for originals is a fully formed idea with all the sources (as credible as can be, because fact-checking is as thorough as it should be) and a story arc with new information along the way.  Key subject areas remain:  science, engineering, exploration, space, expeditions and history.  Crime and law enforcement are also still strong subjects, but the network claims to have no immediate need for more.

There is always an appetite for "Big Science" topics done in an entertaining and contemporary manner. The key is to make it immersive and experiential.

Very little on the acquired side, but they will take a look on anything that fits into their remit.

Since several recently-launched series have not met the threshold for renewal (including DOGTOWN, FIGHT SCIENCE, and RESCUE INK UNLEASHED,)  there is a need for need for new series.  Event specials are always in favor...not live or anything, but 1- or 2-hour Blue Chip docs.  They still want 'em.  The key is that there must be enough "substance" throughout the program to justify its length. NGC prides itself on "time spent viewing," so substantive information and action throughout is key to their evaluation of new projects. Regardless, it's the ol' "we want new info on familiar topics" that rules the day. "Big science" is at the top of their "needs" list.

Blue-chip Natural History is migrating to NG Wild, which replaced Fox Reality Channel in March, 2010. The ongoing success of DOG WHISPERER has led to similar appeal series about domestic animals - that sub-genre should remain viable for some time.