My Adirondack summer camp counselors thought the world of my older brother. On over-night hikes, he always volunteered to carry the heaviest pack and had the stamina to set the pace for the rest of us. No trail was too rough for him, and when it disappeared into a thicket of briars and brambles… why, he’d hack right through them until he picked up the trail again. And by the time we finally dragged our sorry, tired carcasses into some rustic camp site, his tent was already pitched, and while we were struggling to get ours up, there was my brother hauling in dry wood for the camp fire.
As for me? I barely made it… hungry, thirsty, mosquito-bitten and full of tree sap… I rued the day my dad ever signed me up for sleep-away camp. Which is probably why I never saw – much less heard of – Discovery Channel’s “Dual Survival” until my older brother told me how much he loved the show. That figures. This long-running reality series is for anyone interested in outdoor survival, including hard-bark campers like my brother.
The format of the show is fairly straight-forward. Imagine some sort of a disaster that leaves you stranded in the water, or deserted forest, or cold, exposed mountain top. What would you do… how would you manage; survive? Of course, you don’t have to worry about that, because you get to sit in the comfort of your home watching two (very) tough guys figure all that out for themselves. And make no mistake about it – these are not your ordinary human beings who are thrown into such life-or-death settings. Take, for example, 25-year Army vet, EJ Snyder, who became a survival and tracking instructor for elite Ranger Units. He also works with Green Berets. EJ is known as an “extreme survivalist”, and once you watch this show, you’ll know why. There’s also Joseph Teti – a Special Ops expert who has been involved with highly classified counter-terrorist units. Teti has been involved in highly dangerous missions in both Afghanistan and Iraq… in other words, don’t mess with him.
Discovery’s Dual Survival’s Ratings Analysis
As is the case with several cable reality series, “Dual Survival” airs several “seasons” within the same calendar year. In 2016, for example, about two dozen episodes were spread out over Seasons Seven thru Nine, which may help to explain the Live audience erosion we’re seeing (i.e., too much of the same content crammed into a relatively short timeframe.) Undoubtedly, the expansion of DVR activity has also hurt Live viewing levels — for example, the Live + 15-Day DVR rating is twice the size of just the Live-only rating. There’s also the migration of traditional TV viewers to digital video content. Nevertheless, “Dual Survival” is still quite popular and continues to deliver solid television ratings and shares:
Small Market / Southern Market Skew
Perhaps due to the rural, outdoor nature of “Dual Survival”, the show’s popularity has a decided small-market skew. Below is a list of the Top 25 DMAs ranked by household rating size through the first five episodes of Season Nine. The median DMA household rank is 160 (out of ~210 DMAs.) Along with attracting relatively small markets, “Dual Survivor” appeals to Southern ones as well with 16 out of the Top 25 DMAs located south of the Mason-Dixon Line. West Virginia alone makes the list with five markets. Several of these markets are also represented by Viamedia:
Local Cable Advertising
For calendar year 2016, “Dual Survival” attracted over 70 local advertisers who ordered nearly 750 spots across 42 Viamedia markets (~55% of Viamedia’ s national footprint.) That comes to an average of over 10 spots per client. And in terms of cable advertising categories, Automotive captures a remarkable 62% share, which is double the level we normally see for this category company-wide. The second highest share accrues to Financial Services (9%), and while that figure pales in comparison with Automotive, it should be noted that 9% is also double the amount we normally see:
The Surest Way to Survive
We’ve noted in past blogs that reality-TV on cable can be roughly divided into three categories, and in my opinion “Dual Survival” falls into the middle one: “kinda real.” On the one hand, the survivalists are dropped into dangerous, real-world settings and are forced to make their way with very little at their disposal. (Indeed, it is their sheer ingenuity that makes this show so compelling.) But, on the other hand, it’s hard to overlook the simple fact that there’s also an entire film crew capturing all the exciting action. Where do you think they sleep at night… and what do you think they eat? And when the cameras stop rolling, do the survivalists join them?
But whatever the case may be, perhaps the greatest challenge for “Dual Survival” is not its authenticity, but whether or not Discovery Channel can keep producing so many episodes while keeping the content fresh and compelling. The show averaged 9 episodes a year from 2010 – 2014, but more than double that figure over the last two years (2015 – 2016). Perhaps fewer episodes going forward is the surest way for this show to survive!
Written by Jonathan Sims
VP of Media Research, Viamedia