‘Planet Earth’ Creates Ratings Returns

Apr 5, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Discovery HD Theater continues to rack up impressive ratings for its airing of the acclaimed 11-episode “Planet Earth” series, with Sunday’s performances matching last week’s debut.
Sunday’s two airings averaged a 3.55 household rating for Discovery, off just slightly from last week’s three-episode premiere-night average of 3.6. Discovery estimates about 15 percent of the viewership was on HD Theater (about 500,000 homes).
In addition to Discovery’s massive marketing campaign, viewership of the event was fueled by positive critical reviews and praise from Oprah Winfrey on her talk show. Perhaps more than any non-sports TV event, the series has been hailed as a must-watch in HD.
“If you’ve been planning to buy that HDTV anyway, you might as well buy it for ‘Planet Earth,'” USA Today said.
Online, some fans have said it’s the best use of the HD format they’ve ever seen.
Discovery isn’t content to have HD Theater as an also-ran channel, however. The company plans to add original programming to boost the HD slate.
For the first time, the network will have a television personality hosting one of its shows. In “Wildlife Man,” David Ireland, aka the Original Crocodile Man, travels the world catching snakes, wrestling boars and swimming with whales.
Other new series include “Soul of a River,” a four-part documentary on the Mekong River in Southeast Asia; “Antarctic Mission,” shot aboard an oceanographic sailing ship; and “Emergency Management Director,” which follows the work of people who respond to weather-related disasters.
Specials will look at the Kazakh tribe of western Mongolia, heli-skiing and the “Real X Men,” about people with special powers.
HD Theater also is bringing back “Sunrise Earth” for a fourth season-with a twist. An online vote will determine where this year’s five episodes will be shot. One viewer will win the opportunity to travel to the location and shoot the sunrise of his or her choice.
At this point in the network’s development, it needs more than sharp pictures to hold its audience.
“What keeps viewers coming back is the promise of new great content,” said Clint Stinchcomb, executive VP and general manger, Discovery Emerging Networks. “”We want viewers who started watching four years ago to be as immersed in the network as someone who started watching four weeks ago.”
Although Discovery HD Theater constitutes only a small part of Discovery’s overall sales, advertising on the network has been growing rapidly. Revenue has doubled over the past few years as the number of advertisers creating HD commercials has increased, said Harold Morgenstern, senior VP of ad sales.
The number of HD Theater clients has increased to 40 from 22 in 2005 and Discovery expects to hit 65 clients in 2007. The top categories are electronics, movies, automotive, financial, travel and alcoholic beverages.


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