Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

Canada’s Non-fiction Channel Ranker: A Snapshot of Discovery, History, Nat Geo and More…

What are the viewing levels for non-fiction channels in Canada?

  • It’s a good question to ask during Toronto’s Hot Docs Forum.
  • Or maybe not, as the Montreal Canadiens take a 1-0 series lead over the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
  • Whatever! This week: Canada’s Non-fiction Channel Ranker, and several Takeaways.

Protection Policy

  • US multi-channel affiliates dominate the non-fiction niche.
  • Though in their wisdom, Canada’s CRTC regulator limits US ownership of affiliates to 20%, and also enforces CanCon minimums to benefit local producers.
  • This twin mandate has sustained Canada’s non-fiction production sector.
  • The policy is the envy of say, Australia, where a comparable population has been ill-served by its politicians, and doesn’t deliver a similar steady volume of commissions for Aussie local producers, or create local equity plays in channels.

Canada’s Non-fiction Channel Ranker
Adults 25-54
Average Total Day, August 2013 – March 2014


Nat Geo Channel17.9073
Animal Planet5.4286
Nat Geo Wild3.7787
Discovery Science3.3448
Oasis HD2.8079

And some other English-language channels for good measure:

TSN (Sports)64.526
Food Network27.086
CBC News Network16.463
diy network5.239
Discovery World1.814



Canadians who view factual channels basically watch what’s working in the US.

There are several notable exceptions:

  • Canada’s Worst Driver has been Discovery Canada’s #1 show for several seasons, averaging nearly 350,000 viewers (A25-54).
  • Driver crossed the line ahead of Gold Rush, Klondike and other hits that flow up the pipeline from Discovery’s HQ in Silver Spring MD.
  • History’s #2 after the scripted series Vikings was The Curse of Oak Island (300,000), well ahead of #3 Pawn Stars (238,000). Oak Island is a treasure-hunter series located in Nova Scotia.
  • The local Aftermath series came in as H2’s #3 ranked show (19,779).


Mugshots: Canada’s Worst Drivers

Discovery Canada comes in as a near dead-heat with History Canada:

We’ll cover Canada’s French-language channels soon.

Canadian Wildlife

  • Blue Ant Media‘s Oasis channel is a pure Wildlife play that is profitably although narrowly distributed on a pay tier.
  • Oasis out-ranks well-established non-fiction channels when it is offered ‘apples-to-apples’ as a free sampler.
  • There’s a lesson here for the many channel brands that have abandoned Natural History for the me-too middle-ground of talent-driven Reality.
  • Blue Ant, BTW is the Smithsonian Channel‘s Canadian partner.

NEW!…………………….SWEET SPOTS 2014………………………….NEW!
Production and Acquisition Cost Benchmarks for U.S. Factual Networks

  • What do 30+ US channels pay for programs?
  • For docs? And reality?
  • For Signature, Standard and ‘Bargain-basement?
  • Is our commissioning team paying more or less than the competition?
  • Do preferred producers earn a premium?
  • Does my pitch fall in the budget sweet spot for my target network?
  • Which programs are being promoted at the 2014 Upfronts?

We interview dozens of executives and producers to create a unique source of proprietary information about network budgets for commissions and copro’s.

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