Post Type:post Eureka | Viamedia

Several years ago I heard John Hendricks (founder of Discovery Channel) talk about what motivated him to start what ultimately became a global franchise, and he mentioned the idea of bringing documentary (National Geographic-like) programming to a wider TV audience.

Did he ever!

But somewhere along the line, Discovery Channel also morphed into a “reality network” that peered into the lives of some pretty darn tough men (and women) plying their trade in difficult circumstances. And it allowed a few desk jockeys (like yours truly) to live vicariously through the dangerous work of others as they fished the Bering Sea (“Deadliest Catch”) or tackled gigantic construction projects (“Mega Builders”).

One of my favorites (and one of Discovery Channel’s highest rated series) is “Gold Rush” that follows a cast of characters (I mean “miners”) scooping and digging away at gold placer deposits in the Yukon Territory in the hope of striking it rich. Now entering its fifth season, “Gold Rush” ratings and shares have rebounded smartly this season (through the first five episodes), and are now back to comparable levels from the 2012/13 Season:  

Source: Viamedia analysis of Rentrak TV Essentials Data (Telecast Summary Report) for Discovery Channel’s “Gold Rush” for the first five episodes of the current and past two seasons. Ratings and shares are Viamedia time-duration weighted estimates for new “Gold Rush” airings only (no repeats).

Who is the hard core “Gold Rush” viewer?

To answer that question we analyzed the show based upon Acxiom’s PersonicX Clusters that Rentrak has overlaid on its set-top-box data.

In a nut-shell, PersonicX is a household-level consumer segmentation analysis that divides practically every home in America into one of seventy unique clusters across an array of demographic, behavior-graphic and lifestyle characteristics. By matching the unique characteristics of PersonicX clusters to their set-top-box panel homes, Rentrak has created PersonicX HH ratings for all the programs they measure.

Like many popular segmentation studies, PersonicX has created catchy names for each of their 70 clusters. And when we looked at the clusters with the highest ratings for “Gold Rush”, we found a fairly broad range by age group, income and marital status. But they all had one strong common denominator: these cluster all skew rural. Just the cluster names alone practically scream “rural”:

Source: Viamedia analysis of Rentrak TV Essentials Data (Telecast Series Demographics) for Discovery Channel’s “Gold Rush” premiere episode entitled “New Blood” that aired on 10/17/2014.

To say “Gold Rush” has struck a vein with local advertisers would be an understatement. A huge understatement. Across the 29 Viamedia markets that have exhibited advertising on “Gold Rush” over the past two seasons, we have seen a plus 5-fold increase in spending. There has also been more than a doubling in the number of local clients, who have collectively increased their investment in 30-second spots by over 500%!

What has led to such a frenzy of demand? Undoubtedly, it has something to do with the fact that “Gold Rush is such a high profile program that — from week to week — is often Discovery’s highest rated series. There is also something highly compelling about watching competing teams of grizzled miners in on the hunt for gold. In other words, a highly engaged audience is an advertiser’s best friend.

The largest category of advertisers – Automotive (35% share of dollars) – upped their investment in the show by over 800%! Indeed, the Top 5 largest categories (representing +80% of all advertising) increased their investments by no less than 450%:

Source: Viamedia analysis of B.I.G. internal database (“Sports & High Profile Tracker”) for only those advertisers within markets that exhibited local advertising in “Top Chef” over the past two seasons (2012/13 & 2013/14).

Season 5 premiered on October 17th with new teams, new equipment, new hopes and new fears. Young Parker Schnabel returns from a highly successful Season 4 venture and is now doubling down on his good fortune. The “Viking” – Tony Beets – is rolling the dice on an ugly, old rusted floating gold dredge. And Todd Hoffman returns from the steamy jungles of Guyana, South America, where he lost just about everything, perhaps even his will to mine. They will all compete for the richest prize yet, pushing their crews to the utmost in the belief that, “dere be gold in dem darn hills…” for themselves, and for local cable advertisers.

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– Written by Jonathan Sims, VP Media Research, Viamedia