Skip to main content

Science Channel Analysis - February 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 /March 2011 vs. March 2010 (% Change)

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

Steady as she goes.  Modest increases over last year were driven completely by men.  Audiences were down slightly from February, driven by the loss of women.  Making up almost 70% of the total audience, Science is a true destination for men.  And not a sports show to be found anywhere.  Median jumped pretty big from February, however it would appear that last month was the anomaly and it's just a return to "normal".

The modest numbers overall means the difference between the highest rated night (Sunday) and the lowest rated (Wednesday/Thursday) is quite small in actual delivery.  On an annual basis, Monday and Tuesday were the big winners, jumping more than 40% in target A25-54 from last year.  Each week, Monday's space and astronomy theme built nicely throughout the night.  Tuesday's earth geology (earthquakes and volcanoes) was driven by premieres and repeats of WHEN EARTH ERUPTS.

Wednesday and Thursday struggled (see above) with a mix of repeats.  ODDITIES and IDIOT ABROAD were near the bottom on Wednesday.  Thursday featured a full night premiere of the mini-series ONE OCEAN.  The self described "ambitious and stunning" series didn't click with the network's audience, underdelivering prime averages by as much as 40% in target demos.

Friday showed measurable improvement over last year with the demos.  Using a steady diet of regular series (HOW IT'S MADE, HOW DO THEY IT), one big night combined with a decent rest of month to keep things on track.

Saturday featured several repeats of IDIOT ABROAD.  Unlike Wednesday's numbers, Saturday appears to be a better fit.  As long as they run 2-3 consecutive episodes, it can build momentum.  Stand alone repeats in the latter two weeks didn't fare as well.

Sunday featured a big change and perhaps the beginnings of a shift in the channels editorial direction.  FIREFLY, a scripted sci-fi drama that previously aired on two networks, made its debut on Science Channel.  The two hour pilot came out of the gate strong.  The night kept building with a second episode at 10pm.  The next three weeks didn't quite achieve the same heights, but were solid for the most part.  Demographically, the series goes male as we would expect, doing better with the M25-54.


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 won't be known for a few months.  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.