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Travel Channel Lets Viewers Make Call

Oct 7, 2007  •  Post A Comment

The Travel Channel is planning a new destination for viewers—a “pilot week” in December when test episodes of the network’s new shows will be aired.
The pilots for as many as seven new programs will be shown the week of Dec. 17, and a special Web site is being set up that will enable viewers to vote on the shows, make comments and discuss the shows.
The network also will be screening its shows for advertisers as early as possible to encourage sponsorship deals and product integrations.
It’s a most unusual move. The usual course is for a network to order pilots and then have the network’s executives de­cide which ones will get orders for more episodes and a timeslot on its schedule.
The general public usually has no say in the process. In this case, however, a member of the public even stars in one of the pilots: Travel Channel found Shane Reynolds via a user-generated video.
The atypical pilot strategy is one of the moves Travel Channel is making under its new ownership. As a stand-alone network under Cox Communications, management has more leeway then it did when Travel was one of a dozen networks owned by Discovery Communications, according to president and general manager Patrick Younge.
The network also is preparing for life without the World Poker Tour, which moves to GSN next year as part of a one-year, $7 million deal.
In the third quarter, Travel Channel was ranked 34th in total viewers in prime time among all ad-supported cable networks.
The network’s ratings have been rising even though “World Poker Tour,” once its highest-rated program, has been in decline. With it leaving, the network is investing in additional episodes of its other successful programs, and using a new formula to develop new shows with personality.
“As we look at 2008, we’re no longer paying the World Poker Tour, so it means we’ve been able to double down all of our biggest series,” Mr. Younge said. “When you’ve had 15 successive months of record delivery, you muck around with that at your peril.”
Next year the network will have 24 episodes of “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” instead of 12, 24 episodes of “Bizarre Foods With Andrew Zimmern” and 14 hours of programming featuring Samantha Brown.
Travel Channel also plans to develop more shows built around those types of personalities.
“The key to our creative filter is something we call the impassioned insider, and when you have a hosted program, it’s not somebody who has a passion, it’s somebody who lives their passion,” said Michael Klein, senior VP of content for the Travel Channel.
The working title for one of Travel Channel’s pilots is “The Deal Hunter.” The host is Ian Grant, a Minneapolis interior designer who travels the world shopping for products that are unique to the local culture. The pilot, produced by Edelman Productions, was shot mostly in New York’s Chinatown.
Another new show is “The Art Show With Lee Sandstead,” from Atlas. In the pilot, the art history professor highlights the top five things to see at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. “If you have no interest in art, this is the show that will make you interested,” Mr. Klein said.
The network also is building “The Shane Reynolds Show” around a guy who first came to the network’s attention through a user-generated video. Since then he has appeared on a couple of Travel Channel shows, including “Your Travel Guide.” The pilot was produced by former TLC and USA executive Chris Sloane’s C2 Media.
Some of the other pilots are non-hosted, including the channel’s take on a list show: “10 Things You Didn’t Know,” also from C2. The pilot covers Florida.
Those pilots will be aired in the 8 p.m. hour during “Pilot Week on Travel Channel” the week of Dec. 17. The network will be promoting the event and is looking for a sponsor for the event.
Most pilots don’t get aired until a show is picked up as a series, but Mr. Klein expects to get useful information from viewers about the shows it airs through its Web site.
“It really helps inform us as we continue to shape these potential series,” he said.
The shows will be shown to advertisers as soon as they’re available, rather than waiting for the traditional upfront advertising season.
“Now it really is throughout the year that advertisers are looking for opportunity, so you want to get out in front,” Mr. Klein said.
“And by having these in hand, it really separates us from the pack that have their one-paragraph description of a potential show.”

33 Comments

  1. I hope you can email me the name of a restaurant covered by Anthony Bourdain on his No Reservations Show on your channel Monday 12/24 aprox 10:40pm. I need the NYC restaurant that he said serves bones with bone marrow. It’s my husband’s favorite dish! I hope you can help!
    thanks.
    Jan

  2. Can Travel Channel please tell me what happened to Derek Acorah’s GHOSTOWN? It was aired on Friday evenings right after MOST HAUNTED, and since the beginning of the New Year, it’s suddenly vanished. WHAT’S UP?????

  3. I have missed seeing Samantha Brown. Maybe I just don’t know when she is on.
    When I see you have Zimmer or other obnoxious people eating strange things, I turn to another channel immediately.
    Thanks for this opportunity

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