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Sarah Palin’s Alaska: Peaked? Discovery’s China Government Deal: Hmmm!

Sarah Palin’s Alaska: Context and Takeaways

Approximately 4.96 million people watched the Sunday-night premiere of TLC’s Sarah Palin’s Alaska, the new reality-television show that depicts the former Alaska governor and her family exploring their home state.

  • Ms. Palin’s audience was the most-watched program debut in TLC history, according to early Nielsen Co. data provided by the Discovery Communications Inc. cable network.

The episode nevertheless lagged far behind the most-watched shows on Sunday night.

  • Around 20 million people watched the New England Patriots defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers, according to General Electric Co.’s NBC Sports
  • About 11.8 million watched Desperate Housewives on Walt Disney Co.’s ABC, the network said.

By contrast, TLC’s average primetime viewing in 3Q 2010 was 864,000.

Here is a selection of average primetime ratings (3Q’10) from our popular November 1 post, U.S. Factual Networks: Who’s Hot? Who’s Not! (‘000):



Data thanks to John Morse, president of leading research firm Byron Media.


We asked a cable programming veteran for 5 quick Takeaways from Monday’s big audience:

1.  Not surprised at all. Sarah Palin has a very large and avid following that’s interested in who she is and what she says.   

2.  That same fan base also loves to thumb its nose at the doubters out there and vote with its remote:  Witness Bristol Palin’s longevity on Dancing with the Stars.

3.  The paid marketing push by TLC was significant.  Add in the free marketing coming from all of the press attention, including the skeptics. It all created a ton of buzz and curiosity about the series.

4.  Ad Age reported a solid batch of advertisers on the series. That’s good news. Early reports said that it could be tough to draw advertisers.  Big ratings plus an advertising base are a great combo:  Enough to justify the cost of the series, which was reported in some circles to be more than $1M/episode. 

5.  Week 2 will be important: 

  • A ratings drop of 20% or so would be fine
  • Anything more might raise an eyebrow
  • Week 3 might lose another 20% and they’re still OK
  • Again, more than that, and the big number in Week 1 was just an anomaly


Smithsonian’s Chris Hoelzl joins panel!

World Congress of Science and Factual Producers
Tuesday, 30 November, 3:30PM, Dresden, Germany
Panel: Profiles of U.S. Science & History Commissioners
Susan Werbe
, History Channel
Michael Hoff, Hoff Productions
Dawn Porter, Trilogy Films
Chris Hoelzl, Smithsonian Network
Peter Hamilton, Moderator

If you are attending Dresden, contact Peter Hamilton now to schedule a time to chat about your strategy.


Discovery and Chinese Government form ‘Imagica’ Programming Venture

Discovery Channel and China’s State Council Information Office (SCIO) announced the launch of ‘China Imagica,’ a three-year joint production initiative to produce documentaries that will ‘showcase China’s many unique aspects including her people, places, and things of “magical interest” that inspire awe and wonder.’

Isn’t there a word for a government media effort that is run out of an Information ministry and that ‘showcases’ a country’s magical qualities?

  • Is Discovery really going there?
  • What next?