At a time when most of the top-tier cable networks are experiences ratings declines — often of the double-digit variety — Discovery Channel has bucked the trend.
On the heels of a first quarter that saw the network grow its overall primetime audience by 8%, the 30-year network just wrapped its highest-rated May ever in its target demo, according to Nielsen “live+3” estimates. Its average nightly adults 25-54 viewership of 861,000 (a 0.72 rating) for the April 23-May 20 ratings period was up 11% from last year and surpassed the previous May record for the network set in 2011 (846,000, or 0.68 rating). It ranked fourth among all cable networks for the month.
A key to the strong performance was Discovery’s dominance among men 25-54, with the network claiming the top five ad-supported cable entertainment series — all unscripted — for the month of May. Leading the way was “Deadliest Catch” (1.45 million men 25-54), followed by “Fast N’ Loud” (1.26 million), “Street Outlaws” (1.21 million), “Alaskan Bush People” (1.13 million) and “Naked and Afraid” (1.04 million). Among the series it beat were History’s “Pawn Stars” and AMC’s final season of “Mad Men.”
For the month, Discovery ranked No. 2 among all cable networks in men 25-54, up from No. 4 a year ago.
While Discovery was dominant on the men side of the 25-54 demo, it also showed some nice gains in women of the same age — a stated goal of Discovery Channel topper Rich Ross when he joined the network last year. Its primetime average of 304,000 women 25-54 (a 0.50 rating) was up a big 19% from last year for the net’s highest rating since 2002.
Discovery also moved up the cable rankings in other categories including adults 18-34 (up eight spots to No. 11) and teens 12-17 (up four positions to No. 21).