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Science Channel Analysis - August 2011


* Bold denotes programming change


Several years after launch, the schedule grid still provides very little consistency week to week.  Themed nights are the order of the day, filled with short series, long series, and single hours in between.


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

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

Small numbers mean big changes on this network.  Slight drops from last year in the target demo, all coming from the male side of the ledger.  Younger adults 18-49 were generally flat, although the men 18-49 were down a notch.  As always, it's the trends that are the key.  After the summer, the trends indicate a channel that's running in place.  Not really up or down.

How important are the replays from parent channel Discovery?  Very important.  Four of the top five, and most of the top telecasts in August were repeats or simulcasts of Discovery Channel specials.  RISING: REBUILDING GROUND ZERO, the three hour special marking the 10th anniversary of 9/11 was a top performer on Science.  CURIOSITY, the five year initiative of landmark specials, encored on Science with above average numbers.  It definitely helps to be part of the family.

Turning to the regular schedule, series struggled with year on year comparisons.  For regularly schedule series, only HOW DO THEY DO IT was not down from last August.  HOW IT'S MADE, THROUGH THE WORMHOLE, and BIG BIGGER BIGGEST were off 10-20% in the key demos.

WONDERS OF THE UNIVERSE worked better following a mid-month shift to 10pm, with WORMHOLE providing a nice lead-in.

Two new series launched in August, with JUNKIES launching on Thursdays at 10pm, followed by STUCK WITH HACKETT at 10:30pm.  Sampling for launch week was promising as men and women in equal numbers checked it out.  Debut episodes were above schedule averages.  Unfortunately, the women didn't return the following week.  Both series dropped significantly, falling well below average for the month.  Let's see what happens in September, but the signs aren't encouraging.


The Science Channel's addition to the Cable U Top 30 is a long time coming.  The opportunity for growth is massive.  The network name allows the brand to be as broad or narrow as one likes.  The ratings are still lower than most networks, but are measurable enough to determine success and failure on individual programs.   The channel has been commissioning original programming in increasing amounts the last few years.  It's a must see for any producer looking to break into the Discovery Communications portfolio of networks.

Organizational changes at Discovery Communications once again shuffled the deck and placed Science Channel under new management.  The network has shifted from an internal pairing with Discovery Channel to Animal Planet.  The impact on the content and the schedule have yet to be seen.  Without the direct tie to the flagship, might we see fewer off Discovery series and more originals?  Will Animal Planet's blue chip natural history find it's way over to Science?  Stayed tuned.