Fall primetime insights: Younger-skewing male networks


Baseline Intelligence Media analysts Steve Sternberg and Shari Anne Brill have teamed for their latest report, Primetime TV Insight: The 2011 Fall TV Preview Edition. This is their take on the new fall shows. Yesterday we looked at Older-skewing female networks. Today, it’s Younger-skewing male networks:

It’s no surprise that ESPN is head and shoulders above other cable networks when it comes to reaching men. Adult Swim might break a 1.0 rating among men under 35, and USA might do so among men over 50, but only ESPN breaks (or even approaches) the 1.0 ratings barrier among all male age groups and has also made audience gains. For regular-season sports, NFL Football leads the way, followed by Major League Baseball, College Football, and NBA Basketball.

ESPN in 2010 wrapped its fifth season of Monday Night Football with record deliveries, averaging 14.7 million total viewers over the course of 17 games. In its final NFL broadcast of the season, ESPN drew 19.1 million fans with its coverage of the Saints-Falcons battle. According to Nielsen, the NFC South grudge match now stands as the third-most watched telecast in cable TV history.

The ratings generated by MNF enabled ESPN to collect the highest carriage fee in the business from cable and satellite companies, $4.40 per subscriber per month. Multiply that by 99.8 million subscribers, over 12 months, and ESPN’s annual affiliate revenue haul works out to $5.27 billion. (In an interesting side note, ESPN’s average monthly household reach is about 40%, meaning that 60% of the households who get the channel do not watch it.)

Speaking of the NFL and a possible work stoppage, Disney CEO Bob Iger noted that “college football should do much to help take the sting out of a lost pro football campaign.” He is wrong. He also noted that ESPN holds the rights to air nearly 300 NCAA football games, which would serve as contextually appropriate replacement programming in the event of the NFL season being scuttled. We should point college football attracts far fewer, and substantially different viewers.

In programming news the network announced the launch of a Tuesday night documentary series from ESPN Films, which builds on the success of its 30 for 30 franchise. The new round of documentary films bows in October. Initial subjects include: Bo Jackson, the professional football and baseball star who in the late 1980s became a one-man marketing juggernaut; Charismatic, the colt who won the 1999 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, only to shatter his leg in the final furlong of his chase for the Triple Crown at Belmont Park; and Chuck Wepner, nicknamed “The Bayonne Bleeder” who went 15 rounds with Muhammad Ali in 1975 and inspired the movie Rocky.

In other programming news, ESPN just signed a 12-year agreement for coverage of the PAC-12, which will showcase both football and basketball games. Numbers Don’t Lie is a show for fantasy sports lovers, which looks at this passionate hobby from all aspects, blending news media coverage as well as statistics to come up with sports predictions.

Women’s Sports-related programming includes, Heroics, a new series of films which focus on the passion, strength and struggle of female soccer players and their contribution to the game. The 2011 Women’s FIFA World Cup follows the USA women’s team in its quest for the World Cup in Germany (premiered June 26th).

Separately, the network also announced a new advertising opportunity, which features a split-screen that will be available during its fall NASCAR coverage. Rather than cut away from the action, NASCAR Nonstop allows marketers to buy time on the left side of the screen while the race continues in real time on the right. The network plans to launch this initiative on September 18th during the Chicagoland race. (We wonder if Nielsen’s Monitor Plus commercial tracking service will be able to capture split-screen viewing.)

ESPN will also begin running commercial messages on its WatchESPN app, which streams live ESPN content to tablets and other portable devices. According to Sean Bratches, executive vice president of ad sales and marketing, each day some 2.2 million people use an ESPN app.

Despite the availability of newer technologies, watching sports on linear TV still rules. TV sports ratings are up 21 percent since 2006, while overall TV ratings have grown by just 6 percent in that same period.

Ranked second in the category, History has registered ratings gains versus last year in households and all key male demos. The network has successfully divested itself from virtually any trace of its former reputation for WWII documentaries and has positioned itself as the “#1 factual entertainment network.”

History remains squarely focused on reaching men and lowering its median age, which currently stands at 48. American Pickers, Pawn Stars, Ax Men, and Ice Road Truckers head up History’s primetime schedule. The network is also filled with noteworthy event programming such as How the Earth Was Made, Life After People, Nostradamus Effect, The Universe, Time Machine Modern Marvels, and Gangland, and more recently, the special series, America: The Story of Us.

Unfortunately the network’s first big foray into scripted storytelling imploded when its mini-series, The Kennedys (starring Greg Kinnear and Katie Holmes), was yanked from its schedule prior to air at the request of the Kennedy family. (The controversial series wound up airing on the little-known Reelz network instead).

In somewhat better news, History’s American Restoration launched to a strong start with 3.3 million viewers, 1.5 million of them in the 18-49 demo. Renewals include: Ax Men, Swamp People, Pawn Stars, American Pickers and Ice Road Trucker. Freshman series American Restoration, has been picked up for a second season. Decoded, with Brian Meltzer, is also expected to return. Ice Road Truckers: Deadliest Roads, a spin-off of the IRT franchise, has also been greenlit for another season.

Top Shot, the network’s first competition series featuring legendary tales of amazing marksmanship, just completed season two and is already in production on season three, which is set to premiere this summer. Also returning is Top Gear, the American version of the celebrated U.K. series, which highlights
high-adrenaline action entertainment as it tracks the colorful history of the automobile as well as the eccentric adventures of its hosts.

History has several projects in development for next season. Despite last year’s setback involving The Kennedys, the network remains committed to developing scripted drama and has every intention of developing a new drama for next year. Several topics under consideration include Hatfields and McCoys, Daniel Boone, Houdini, and Al Capone.

Originally announced during last year’s upfront, Thom Beer’s competitions series, Around the World in 80 Ways, has been reworked and is now scheduled for either a first or second quarter 2012 premiere. Contestants have to travel around the world in various types of transportation.

Also greenlit is United Stats of America, a series that will serve up numbers data on everything from how many texts we send to the amount of money we make.

Invention Intervention, documents real people as they are given the opportunity to produce their invention idea or give up trying. Me and Mr. B, which follows famed Mr. Bulgari’s personal mechanic as he finds and restores rare and antique automobiles.

How the States Got Their Shapes (May 2011), is a one-hour series featuring journalist and former Daily Show correspondent Brian Unger as he crisscrosses the nation in search of the stories behind our boundaries, and discovers not only how the states got their shapes, but how the states have shaped us.

Full Metal Jousting features a maverick group of fighters who compete for top honors in the most dangerous competition in history. This is authentic, full-contact jousting, with two competitors on horses charging towards each other at 30 miles an hour. Traditional armor will be replaced by state-of-the-art protective gear. As in years past, History will continue to air specials throughout the year. 9/12, The Day After special is planned to memorialize the events of 9/11, commemorating its 10th anniversary.

Other events and specials include The Men Who Built America (2012), a miniseries that shines a spotlight on the influential builders, dreamers and believers whose feats transformed the United States (in the post-civil war era) into the greatest economic and technological superpower the world had ever
seen. History of the World in Two Hours will give viewers a rapid-fire history (using CGI) of our world, from the beginning of time as we know it to present day.

The network has just greenlit The Bible, a five-part, 10-hour docudrama series from Survivor executive producer Mark Burnett which is set to air in 2013. It will combine live action and state-of-the-art CGI. If they thought The Kennedys was controversial…

Discovery has maintained its reputation for creating and producing high quality, non-fiction content. The network’s average ratings have remained consistent over the past few years, and since it has a pronounced male skew with targeted programming to match, we have moved it to our younger male skewing category, where is ranks third.

Many of Discovery’s longest-running popular series such as Deadliest Catch, Dirty Jobs, Man vs. Wild, Mythbusters, and Storm Chasers will return. Also returning are American Chopper, Dual Survival, Auction Kings, Hogs Gone Wild, Swamp Loggers, and American Loggers.

One thing that separates Discovery from other cable networks is the high number of series and special events it airs throughout the year. Last year’s 11-part epic miniseries, Life, premiered in March on seven of Discovery’s networks simultaneously, with the remaining segments only airing on Discovery Channel.

The debut on Discovery reached 11.8 million viewers, about 1.5 million more than the well-received Planet Earth. It was also the most watched Discovery Channel premiere since Walking With Dinosaurs and Raising the Mammoth back in 2000. Many viewers continued to stay tuned to the series which delivered an average of 4.5 million total viewers, earning Life the distinction of making it cable’s most-watched event in its time slot (excluding sports).

Some of the specials coming to the network include a BBC/Discovery channel co-production Frozen Planet, which captures the scale and beauty of the earth’s Polar Regions, and Where’s My Mammoth?, which is being promoted as “the definitive natural history of one of the most iconic animals that ever lived.”
Of special note is the 25th Anniversary of Shark Week. The annual event returns this summer, with new insights into the magnificent and elusive creatures.

The network plans to premiere four new series during the upcoming 2011-2012 season. In Penn & Teller’s Secrets of the Universe (Fall 2011), each episode will present up to 10 amazing stories, but one of them is a lie. A multiplatform audience will play along to guess the fake one, and only at the end of the show will it be unmasked.

Best in the Business highlights three average American jobs such as shelf-stockers and sheep-shearers and pits two people in the same profession against one another in this battle of job-skill supremacy.

Swamp Brothers features exotic animal expert Robbie Keszey and his brother Stephen, a former city guide learning the trade. They run Glades Herp Farms, Florida’s largest reptile sanctuary and exotic reptile dealership.

Nik Wallenda, who is the seventh generation descendant of famous circus family, The Flying Wallendas, is featured in new series, Life on a Wire, which focuses on this 21st century daredevil.

Over the past few years, Spike’s programming strategy has been to skew its content to a male point of-view. Accordingly, its female audience has been leaving in droves, while its male audience has remained at relative parity – so we decided to move the network into the “male-skewing” category from its previous general entertainment home. The network is currently in fourth place in its category across all major male demos.

Earlier this year, Spike began to incorporate a rebranding strategy with bigger and broader programming, which will mature the network’s voice and focus on the modern man in today’s world.

In addition to returning series Auction Hunters, Deadliest Warrior, Manswers, and Blue Mountain State, Spike has five new entries debuting this season. Spike’s first reality series, Coal, which launched back in March, is from Emmy Award Producer Thom Beers. The series explores coal-mining, one of America’s most dangerous jobs. Repo Games, which launched back in April, is about a crew of repo men who give debtors a chance to keep their cars if they are able to answer trivia questions. Search & Restore, which launched in May, gives professional volunteers a chance to rebuild homes for needy families.

There are two new unscripted series about to launch this summer. Bar Rescue (July 2011) is hosted by bar consultant John Taffer, who gives struggling bars one last chance to succeed by delving into every business facet, from creating a profitable menu to managing disgruntled employees.

Most Lethal (September 2011) features 12 representatives from the military, ranging from the Navy Seals to Green Berets, who compete to prove who is the most lethal.

Returning sports series include: Impact Wrestling (formerly TNA), UFC Primetime, UFC Live Prelims, UFC Fight Nights and a new season of The Ultimate Fighter, which will be back in September 2011.

Spike also airs special events throughout the year including, The Guys Choice Awards, which aired in back in June. A special documentary about Bruce Lee is set to air in the summer. Other special events include Scream (October 2011), which honors the best in Sci-Fi, Horror, Comics and Fantasy, and the 9th Annual Video Game Awards, scheduled for December 2011.

Spike’s development slate for 2011/2012 includes comedies Little League Dads, Thunderballs, Mega Winner and F.T.W. (Fight the World). Also in the works is drama procedural, Bomb Squad Project, as well as new competition series Crossfit.

Next up: Older-skewing male networks