If the low ratings at Oprah Winfrey’s OWN weren’t evidence enough of viewer disinterest in programming that inspires, then perhaps the massive ratings growth at Investigation Discovery, a network whose shows are almost exclusively populated by murderers and stalkers, can provide convincing.
Investigation Discovery, the crime-themed cable channel that launched in January 2008, is not just getting better ratings than OWN, it is also doing better than the Discovery Channel itself. Over the last two weeks, ID averaged 275,000 total viewers, or 8,000 more than the 267,000 viewers that Discovery averaged, according to Nielsen. OWN, which launched in January 2011, only averaged 180,000 total daily viewers during the fourth quarter.
Given those ratings, who needs to spend millions on shows like “Planet Earth” when you can just air cheesy non-fiction crime programming like “I (Almost) Got Away With It” and “Who The (Bleep) Did I Marry. Those kind of shows have the fingerprints of ID president Henry Schleiff all over them. After all, Schleiff built Court TV into a cable network powerhouse on the back of similar programming.
According to a report from investment bank Barclays, the momentum behind ID could give parent company Discovery Communications “substantial leverage” when it negotiates new distribution agreements with cable and satellite operators next year. Currently, analysts estimate that ID only earns 8 cent per subscriber in carriage fees while Discovery commands 36 cents per subscriber.
As the flagship network, however, the fact that Discovery Channel is losing steam could spell trouble for its parent company, which is not only seeing poor results from OWN, but also was forced to recently rebrand the struggling environmental focused network “Planet Green” as “Destination America.”