Travel Ready to Fly With ‘School’

Aug 1, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Expanding on Travel Channel’s mandate to move away from specials and travelogues, the Discovery Networks-owned channel has greenlighted its first docu-soap reality series, ordering 18 half-hour episodes of “Flight Attendant School” from GRB Entertainment.

“We want to look at docu-soaps as something that will work for Travel. We’re moving away from anthologies and becoming more series- and personality-driven,” Travel Channel spokesman James Ashurst said.

The series follows eight students in a flight attendant training program for Denver-based Frontier Airlines.

“There’s always been an allure or glamour to being a flight attendant, but it’s also a serious job with serious responsibility, and we want to focus on both of those aspects,” Mr. Ashurst said.

The series has a built-in competitive element: The difficult six-week training program typically weeds out less-qualified candidates.

Travel Channel recently debuted its first wave of programming pegged to its new strategy, with “Stranded With Cash Peters” and Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.” At the Television Critics Association’s press tour last month, Travel Channel General Manager Pat Younge announced “5 Takes,” in which five young travelers take a six-week tour of Europe on $50 each person per day.

Though “Flight Attendant School” is the first docu-soap for Travel Channel, fellow Discovery-owned network TLC has recently embraced the format, scheduling “Hollywood Interns” and “Miami Ink” this summer. Competitor A&E pulled out of the ratings doldrums last year with docu-soaps such as “Airline” and “Growing Up Gotti.”

Travel Channel averaged 400,000 prime-time viewers during the most recent quarter, 153,000 between the ages of 18 and 49, about on par with the same period last year, according to Nielsen Media Research. Among its recent debuts, “Cash” received a .2 average household rating, “Reservations” a .3.

The numbers are modest: The network’s biggest hit, “World Poker Tour,” often generates a .6, and nightly anthology programming typically receives between .1 and .2.

But Mr. Ashurst said he expects the numbers to build as viewers discover the show.