The Pitch: Viacom's Comedy Central is let its talent speak for
the network at its upfront presentation, especially Trevor Noah,
who took over "The Daily Show" in September. But the best line of
its March 31 pitch may have been delivered by "Comedy Central
Roast" host Jeff Ross, who said, "To make TV great again we should
build a wall around Netflix and have Hulu pay for it."
Ratings: Comedy Central took a hit in 2015, with its total
audience tanking 19% in prime time, averaging 569,000 viewers, and
its 18-to-49 demo off 20%.
Programming: Comedy Central is tapping an impressive roster of
talent to produce and star in new series. Amy Schumer, Chris
Hardwick, Kevin Hart, Channing Tatum and Jack Black all have
production deals with the network. Comedy Central is also creating
a series of comedy documentaries. It is extending the first season
of "Not Safe With Nikki Glaser" by 10 episodes and has renewed
popular shows like "Tosh.0" and "Drunk History."
The network is also making
a bigger investment in original programming for Snapchat,
renewing four of its series and picking up nine more to be
distributed on the platform.
The Pitch: Discovery Communications, owner of networks from
Discovery Channel to Animal Planet, is heading into the upfronts
with its linear TV and digital sales team under one umbrella for
the first time, part of the company's One Discovery initiative
encouraging advertisers to make the most of its whole portfolio.
The effort also includes a new data product, Discovery Engage,
designed to let advertisers target viewers more precisely than is
possible with traditional Nielsen age and sex demographics. One
factor that helps differentiate the product from rivals: It
includes set-top box data.
And in an effort to target millennials, Discovery is offering
advertisers the opportunity to buy into content from its digital
networks such as SourceFed Studio, which features comedic content
and parodies, and Seeker, which aims to feed the curiosity of
millennials about science, nature and the human condition.
The Pitch: Discovery Channel is achieving its goal of growing
audiences and also bringing in younger and more diverse
Ratings: The network ended 2015 with 10% growth in total viewers in
prime time, averaging about 1.6 million. It also saw a 2% increase
in the 18-to-49 demo and 4% jump in the core 25-to-54 demo.
Programming: Discovery Channel renewed 22 series and is introducing
20 more. The newcomers include "Sacred Steel," which will join the
network's Motor Monday lineup and will take viewers inside an
exclusive and unusual bike club; a spinoff of "Deadliest Catch"
called "Deadliest Catch: Dungeon's Cove"; "Cooper's Treasure," a
documentary series that tells the story of the treasure map that
astronaut Gordon "Gordo" Cooper started in space; and "The Wheel,"
where survivalists go head-to-head in the world's most unforgiving
The network is also introducing a slate of documentaries under the
rubric Discovery Impact that explore mankind's impact on the
And on the heels of "Harley and the Davidsons," Discovery picked up
another scripted series, "Manifesto," from Kevin Spacey and Dana
Brunetti. The series tracks how FBI agent Jim "Fitz" Fitzgerald
hunted the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, through his pioneering work in
The Pitch: New York and Los Angeles viewers may not necessarily get
the unusual and sometimes outlandish personalities on TLC, but the
network is resonating with middle America, according to Discovery
Communications CEO David Zaslav. As the network recovers from two
scandals involving its TV stars, TLC this summer is
introducing a brand campaign with the theme "I Am," about
embracing who we are as individuals.
Ratings: TLC saw its total audience erode 14% in 2015, averaging
944,000 viewers in prime time and plunging 18% in the 25-to-54
demo. But the network has seen some rebound over the past several
months, attracting viewers around its specials around the series
"Jill & Jessa: Counting On," a spinoff of "19 Kids and
Counting," which was canceled last summer following news that Josh
Duggar molested his sisters.
Programming: TLC is trying its hand at its first scripted
programming coming from Tyler Perry with the working title "Too
Close To Home." The eight-part series tells the story of a young
woman who escaped her working-class upbringing finding success in
the D.C. political circuit, only to find herself at the center of a
scandal that forces her back home.
The network is also introducing two new real-life families to the
channel. "Outdaughtered" centers on the Busby family, who have the
only all-female set of quintuplets in the country. "Meet the
Putmans" follows three generations of Putmans, 25 family members,
living under one roof.
And TLC is getting back into the home and property genre with famed
designer Nate Berkus, who will star in a new series along with his
husband Jeremiah Brent and their daughter Poppy in a show TLC
president Nancy Daniels describes as "'Modern Family' meets home
The network also picked up a series about a couple who create
elaborate play houses and a makeover show staring design expert
Jill Martin and handyman Gage Cass.
Ratings: Velocity's total audience was up 18% in prime time in
2015, averaging 205,000, while its core 25-to-54 demo remained
Programming: Velocity will bring back 13 series, 100 live hours of
event coverage and several new series. The auto enthusiast network
is making its first foray into trucks with "Wild Rides Alaska"
(working title). Other new programming includes "RMD Design"
(working title), about an award-winning, urban automotive design
and build shop, and "Speed Is the New Black" (working title), which
goes inside 30-year-old Noah Alexander's Classic Car Studio.
The Pitch: Animal Planet celebrates its 20th anniversary this
Ratings: Animal Planet's total audience in prime time remained
steady in 2015, averaging 652,000 viewers, but its core demo
Programming: Animal Planet is introducing Animal Planet Presents, a
new programming event that will introduce documentaries from top
filmmakers. Other programming includes "The Zoo," going behind the
scenes at the Bronx Zoo; "Texas Vets" (working title), which
follows two Houston veterinarians; and "Life of Dogs," which
celebrates the way dogs impact the world.
Animal Planet is also introducing events like Pet Nation Renovation
and Wild Winter Nights, which will feature holiday editions of the
network's most popular programming.
Ratings: Science Channel saw a 3% increase in its total audience,
averaging 318,000 viewers in 2015, while its 25-to-54 demo grew by
Programming: Science Channels new programming includes the search
for the next Mythbusters and the return of "Punkin Chunkin" after a
The Pitch: The interest around true-crime stories, following the
success of the podcast "Serial" and more recently Netflix's "Making
a Murderer," plays perfectly into what Investigation Discovery has
been doing for years. The network is going out with a new tagline:
"Real people. Real stories."
Ratings: ID continues its impressive ratings growth, averaging
891,000 viewers in prime time in 2015, up 9% from the year prior.
It also saw a 3% uptick in the 25-to-54 demo.
Programming: ID will match the 650 hours of original content it ran
in 2015, with nearly every night of prime time offering at least
one new hour. The network has partnered with Time Inc.'s People
Magazine for "People Magazine Investigates," which looks at crime
stories pulled from the magazine's headlines. It will also air its
own take on the O.J. Simpson trial, following in the footsteps of
FX and ESPN. "Hard Evidence: O.J. Is Innocent" is slated to air in
Ratings: Destination America averaged 228,000 viewers on any given
night in prime time in 2015, remaining steady from the year prior.
Its 25-to-54 demo dropped 2%.
Programming: Destination America is emphasizing its paranormal
programming, which it says is resonating with viewers. New shows
include "Ghost Brothers," about a paranormal investigation team,
and "A Haunting," about families' accounts of experiences with
supernatural forces. During Halloween, Destination America will
have a month-long celebration "of all things that go bump in the
American Heroes Channel
The Pitch: Now that A&E Networks' H2 has converted to Viceland
(and apparently none too impressed with History Channel's devotion
to the field), American Heroes is positioning itself as "the only
network dedicated to history."
Ratings: The network saw a 7% decrease in its total audience in
2015, averaging 211,000 viewers in prime time, while the 25-to-54
demo dropped 5%.
Programming: To commemorate the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor on
Dec. 7, American Heroes Channel will air four nights of programming
dedicated to the events that precipitated the U.S.'s entry into
World War II.
The Pitch: Scripps Networks is emphasizing fun during its pitch
to advertisers. The cable programmer is building out its
family-friendly programming across its portfolio of lifestyle
channels, which the company says has a high propensity for live
viewing. Amid the conversations regarding native advertising,
Scripps says that its environment is "naturally optimized" for
advertisers, since more than half the ads are already
lifestyle-themed and audiences often view ads on these channels
more as content than interruptive.
The company is also making strides with attracting millennial
viewers and will add more programming geared toward that audience.
it is ramping up its holiday programming, with cross-over events
that will air across the entire portfolio, as Ad Age previously
reported. It made its case to press and ad buyers separately on
Ratings: HGTV is leading Scripps' ratings growth. It had its
highest-rated year in 2015, growing its total prime-time audience
10% to average 1.5 million viewers. And as of February, it is the
No. 4 cable network among the 25-to-54 demo in prime time, its
highest ranking ever. The network has done this, in part, by airing
new programming every night of the week.
Programming: HGTV will air 17 new series throughout the year.
Actress Gabriel Union and her husband, NBA star Dwyane Wade, are
also expected to join the network in a yet-to-be-named series.
"Parenthood" actress Monica Potter will also get her own show. And
of course HGTV is bringing back favorites including "Fixer Upper,"
"Beachfront Bargain Hunt" and "Property Brothers At Home."
Ratings: Food Network's audience was up 3% in 2015, averaging 1.1
million viewers in prime time. But both its 18-to-49 and 25-to-54
demos declined slightly.
Programming: Food Network has been the most active in trying to
grow its millennial audience. It is doing so by programming
family-friendly shows, usually ones that star or feature kids, like
"Chopped Junior" in an 8 p.m. time slot, with the hope that young
parents will stick around after the kids are in bed. Further to
this end, the network has picked up "Food Network Star Kids" and
"Kids BBQ Championship."
Other new programming includes "Cooks Vs. Cons," a competition
between home cooks and professional chefs; "Celebrity Food Fight,"
hosted by Andy Richter, pitting celebrity foodies and chefs against
each other in food-related games; and "12 Angry Yelpers," where
online reviewers help restaurants improve their reputation.
Top Line: Scripps Networks bought the remaining 35% of Travel
Channel from Cox Communications in February. With Travel Channel
now fully part of the Scripps family, the company plans to focus on
making the network a better fit with the overall portfolio.
Ratings: Travel Channel ratings continued to lag in 2015, with the
network's total audience declining 5% to 438,000 and its 25-to-54
demo down 12%. But the network has now seen five straight months of
Programming: Travel Channel will air an eight-week stunt dedicated
to the fun of summer dubbed "Dive into Summer." Celebrities like
Queen Latifah, Jon Cryer, Terry Crews and Eric Stonestreet are all
coming to the channel in new series. The network is looking to
create content in broad categories like adventure/quest, crazy
travel, epic outdoors and culinary travel.
Ratings: DIY ended 2015 with a 9% increase in its total prime-time
audience, averaging 213,000 viewers, and a 1% uptick in the core
Programming: DIY also has 22 returning series like "Barnwood
Builder," "Salvage Dawgs," "Treehouse Guys" and "Yard Crashers."
The network has also ordered 360 hours of new original home
improvement programming. Limp Bitzkit's Wes Borland is joining the
network with the new series "Sight Unseen."
Ratings: Cooking Channel saw meaningful growth in 2015 with its
total audience climbing 17% to 127,000 viewers in prime time and
its 25-to-54 viewership increasing 15%.
Programming: Haylie Duff is going on a food adventure with a series
with the working title "Haylie on the Road." And singer Patti
LaBelle is getting her own cooking show.
Great American Country
Ratings: Great American Country's audience remained steady in 2015,
attracting 72,000 viewers in prime time.
Programming: The network, which explores the outdoors, is focusing
on existing programming like "Flea Market Flip" and "Living
The Pitch: Viacom's CMT network plans to double its original
programming this year and bow its first batch of scripted series,
while remaining true to its country music roots.
Ratings: The channel ended 2015 with its total viewership down
15% to 297,000 in prime time, while its 18-49 ratings sank 16%.
Programming: "Still the King," CMT's first scripted series about
a washed-up, one-hit wonder musician (Billy Ray Cyrus) who
discovers he has a 15-year-old daughter, will premiere June 12. And
"Million Dollar Quartet," inspired by the 2010 Broadway musical
about how Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis became
stars, will debut in November.
The network also announced a new summer event, CMT Concert of
the Summer. Billed as a new CMT tentpole, the special will feature
a yet-to-be-named country music star and promises to "redefine the
The Pitch: GSN is touting its ratings growth to media buyers and
sellers, as well as its success in attracting some younger
audiences. The game show network is now a top 30 network (excluding
spots and news). The network plans to introduce a real-time
second-screen platform that will allow viewers to engage with
content and play along with its shows in real-time.
Ratings: GSN saw a 23% jump in total viewers in prime time in
2015, averaging 434,000 viewers on any given night, while
viewership in the 25-to-54 demo grew nearly 30%.
Programming Highlights: GSN unveiled a spinoff to "Skin Wars"
with "Skin Wars Fresh Paint," which will be hosted and executive
produced by RuPaul. The show takes artists from varying disciplines
to compete in body painting for the first time. GSN is also getting
into politics with "Political Idiotest," a political-themed special
edition of the "Idiotest" game show.
The Pitch: Kids cable networks are thinking way beyond the
traditional TV set as they plan their new programming because kids
see little distinction between watching a series live or on demand
on other platforms or devices. To this end, Disney Channel is
abandoning its traditional programming model where content is
created for TV and then rolled out on other platforms. Instead, it
is making new episodes of series available on all platforms the
same day they premiere on linear networks. Previously, shows were
not available on video-on-demand or the Watch Disney apps until the
day after they aired on TV.
Ratings: Disney Channel ended 2015 as the most watched cable
network in total day for the first time, just barely edging out
Nickelodeon, which held the title for 20
years. But like most cable channels, Disney is also feeling the
pressure. Its 2-to-11-year-old audience in total day declined
nearly 18% during the year.
Programming: Disney is pitching advertisers 17 new series, 28
returning shows, the Radio Disney Music Awards and two new
original movies. "Big Hero 6," the movie about an inflatable robot,
will be turned into a TV series set to air on Disney XD in 2017.
Disney renewed "The Lion Guard," based on the "Lion King"
franchise, for a second season. Disney Junior, its network aimed at
pre-schoolers, picked up "Vampirina" and "Puppy Dog Tails."
National Geographic Channel
The Pitch: NatGeo is showing off its reach and global scope,
taking on more ambitious projects with bigger budgets. Ultimately,
the goal is to reach a broader and more upscale audience -- an
important target for advertisers. NatGeo enters the upfronts
following a restructuring in September that created a for-profit
joint venture between 21st Century Fox and National
Geographic Society. This resulted in a $725 million infusion from
21st Century Fox. The deal raised some questions about
how much the programming on National Geographic Channels will be
influenced by Fox.
Ratings: NatGeo's total audience remained steady in 2015,
averaging 544,000 viewers in prime time, but its 25-to-54 rating
declined 6% during the year.
Programming Highlights: NatGeo is re-launching its "Explorer"
franchise in the fall, turning it into a weekly series that's more
a magazine and talk-show hybrid. Hosted by British journalist
Richard Benson, the show will be anchored in a studio in front of
an audience and feature field packages, celebrity interviews and
expert commentary. "Explorer" is NatGeo's take on late-night news
Other programs include "Earth Live," an event broadcast
featuring live feeds of wild life from seven continents; "Lawless
Oceans," a six-part docu-series that follows investigator Karsten
von Hoesslin as he tries to solve the case of a murder at sea; and
"Chain of Command," a project in conjunction with the Pentagon to
cover the activity at the U.S. Afghanistan military mission for a
The network will also bow the previously announced six-part
miniseries "Mars" this fall. The series from Ron Howard and Brian
Grazer looks at efforts to colonize the planet over the next
The Pitch: Nickelodeon is tapping into its vault of classic 90's
shows for a new generation of viewers as well as some grown-up
fans. The children's media behemoth is also making a big push into
sports-themed programming, with some impressive athletes signed on
to host or produce series.
Ratings: Nickelodeon's total audience was off 20% in 2015 and
down 22% among kids 2 to 11. But in recent months ratings have
improved, increasing 4% among the 2-to-11 demographic in the first
Programming Highlights: The network is bringing back "Hey
Arnold!" for a two-part animated TV movie, while "Legends of the
Hidden Temple" will be turned into a live-action movie.
Sports-related content includes "Jagger Eaton's Mega Life,"
which follows the 15-year-old skateboarder as he skates around the
world and meets his idols, and "Crashletes," a viral sports clip
series hosted by New England Patriots' Rob Gronkowski.
The Pitch: One year into its rebranding from TVGN (aka TV Guide Network), Pop is trying to get
marketers to shift some of their budgets to the celebrity and
entertainment-driven network. The pitch is that Pop (a joint
venture between CBS and Lionsgate) is growing its audience amid
cable viewership declines and is less expensive than established
lifestyle channels like Bravo, E! and Lifetime. Branded content will
also be a meaningful part of conversations with advertisers.
Ratings: Pop is touting its ratings gains over the last several
quarters, still the channel ended 2015 down 4% in total viewers,
averaging 165,000 people in prime time. Its 25-to-54 viewership was
off by 3% year-over-year.
Programming Highlights: Pop plans to air 400 hours of original
content, with four original series per quarter. It has picked up
the scripted comedy "Nightcap," starring Ali Wentworth as a
producer on a late-night show. Stars such as Whoopi Goldberg, Sarah
Jessica Parker and Gwyneth Paltrow are set to make cameos.
Pop has tapped "Full House" alum Jodie Sweetin, who is having a
major comeback, for the reality series "Hollywood Darlings." The
show will follow Ms. Sweetin along with other former child stars
Christine Larkin of "Step by Step" and Beverly Mitchell of
"7th Heaven," who are real-life friends.
And following success of its reality show "Rock This Boat: New
Kids on the Block," Pop is developing the lightly scripted series
"The Joey McIntyre Project." The show stars the boy-band singer as
he tries to become an actor but instead gets a gig hosting a
The Pitch: TV Land is touting the success of its brand refresh
last year, when it ditched older-skewing shows like "Hot in
Cleveland" for edgier comedies like "Younger" in an effort to lower
the median age of the channel.
Ratings: While "Younger" and "Teachers" have surely brought in a
new audience to TV Land, overall ratings are still lackluster. The
network ended 2015 with its total audience down 5% in prime time,
averaging 608,000 viewers, while its 18-to-49 audience remained
Programming: "Younger" creator Darren Star signed on to the
network for an overall deal that will keep him on as executive
producer of the show and on board with the network to develop
TV Land picked up pilots for the remake of the 1996 movie "The
First Wives Club" as well as a series inspired by the childhood of
Kyle Richards of "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills." It also
renewed the comedy "Teachers" for an expanded 20-episode second