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Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

U.S. Cable Networks 2010 Scorecard: Who’s Hot? Who’s Not!

How are they doing?

John Morse, president of the research firm Byron Media continues his quarterly snapshot of how the top U.S. factual channels gain or lose prime time viewers year-to-year.

Click here to see John’s 3Q’10 report.

Our list is not apples-to-apples:

  • It includes channels that are dedicated to Docs and Unscripted, for example Nat Geo and Discovery
  • And others that schedule a mix of Docs and Reality with Scripted (e.g., A&E and MTV)
  • Many channels that schedule Factual are unrated, or were not rated in ‘09

Quantity Not Quality

  • Most ad-supported channels sell media based on their target demos
  • However the quarterly ‘average prime time’ is a very useful measure of scale and performance

Average Quarterly Primetime Viewing / 4Q’10 versus 4Q’09 

 4Q ’104Q ’09Change %
ID: INVEST. DISCOVERY           358           19816081%
HISTORY     1,246           92032635%
MTV           782           58519734%
MILITARY           122             992323%
DISC SCIENCE           183           1513221%
HISTORY INTL           154           1312318%
BRAVO           750           6628813%
TLC           910           872384%
BET           586           562244%
OXYGEN           348           34172%
TRAVEL           370           36641%
E!           539           53631%
BIO           140           14000%
NAT GEO CH           350           353(3)-1%
WETV           230           235(5)-2%
HGTV           931           973(42)-4%
ANIMAL PLANET           407           429(22)-5%
DISCOVERY           815           860(45)-5%
FOOD           819           866(47)-5%
TRU TV           749           814(65)-8%
SPIKE           756           826(70)-8%
SYFY           907        1,012(105)-10%
STYLE135           155(20)-13%
A&E           986        1,238(252)-20%
VH1           348           506(158)-31%
Factual Networks     13,921     13,830911%

Nielsen Media Research, 4Q 2009 / 2010


  • Largest audience (‘000)
    • History (1,246), A&E (986), HGTV (931), TLC (910) and SyFy (907)
    • Discovery (815) and MTV (782) were in the Top 5 in 3Q’10 and dropped out in 4Q
  • Growth (%)
    • ID: Investigation Discovery (81%), History (35%), MTV (34%), Discovery Military (23%) and Discovery Science (21%)
    • The success of ID and Discovery’s digi-nets is due to smart programming leveraged by an expanding distribution universe
    • VH1 is in the basement (-31%). But remember: the VH1 team developed 2010’s top Reality hit Jersey Shore, which airs on sister channel MTV
    • A&E’s steep drop is due mainly to the eroding audience for its drama, Criminal Minds. A&E is recovering in 1Q’11
  • History’s audience grew by 326,000 viewers; that’s massive for a fully-distributed channel

The Factual Bucket: 13.9 million and Growing!

  •’s bucket of 25 Basic channels attracted on average 13.9 million viewers in prime time in 4Q’10
  • That’s a year-to-year increase of 1% for the Factual genre
  • The 3Q year-to-year increase was 7%



Australian International Documentary Conference
1-4 March 2011, Adelaide, Australia
A hit at Real Screen 2011!
Now the workshop with A&E’s Stephen Harris hits the road!
Getting Your Concept to the Side of the Bus:
A Network Insider’s Guide to
Greenlighting a Factual Program
Improve your chances of success as you learn what’s inside the minds of network executives as they take pitches, buy in to them, promote the strongest concepts to their colleagues, budget productions, and fight for the final sign off. 

And a message to friends and colleagues attending AIDC:
Contact us now to get on the calendar!



The Spring 2011 CINE Golden Eagle Competition is open to submissions.  Entries submitted by February 15 will receive a discount; all entries are due by March 1, 2011.

The CINE Golden Eagle Competition, the prestigious, half-century-old competition based on peer recognition of excellence in film, television, and new media, accepts a broad range of professional, independent and student productions in a variety of categories including documentary, fiction, history, arts, science, new media, and commercial spots, and much more. 

Series submitted for the Golden Eagle Award can now receive special recognition for Excellence in Series Television. Recognized series from 2010 include ESPN’s 30 for 30, Discovery Channel’s Life and History’s WWII in HD.

Past recipients of the CINE Golden Eagle Award include Mel Brooks, Steven Spielberg, Ken Burns, Ron Howard, Mike Nichols, Albert Maysles, Martin Scorsese, and many others.

Those who enter by the early bird deadline on February 15 will receive a discount. All entries are due by March 1. For more information Visit or call the CINE office at 202 785 1136

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