Many years ago, my Dad “encouraged” me to attend Camp Riverdale that once stood on the very northern tip of Long Lake — a beautiful, cold (glacial-formed) lake that runs for a dozen miles or so in the heart of the Adirondacks in upstate New York. One of several interesting features of Camp Riverdale — no roads into (or out of) the place, and as my Dad was fond of saying, there were only three ways out… by seaplane, boat, or try your luck on a 10-mile swim back into town.
No heat in the cabins; a bit of a hike to the latrines; and plenty of gardener snakes that turned up exactly where you did not want them! The food was real bad; the mosquitoes much worse; and one summer Camp Riverdale had a “little” black bear problem that required the services of a very large forest ranger with a pump action rifle.
And I thought I was roughing it!
Turns out Camp Riverdale was pure luxury compared to the lives led by “Mountain Men” – the really tough guys featured on History’s reality-series of the same name.
Now in its fourth season (premiere date June 18th), “Mountain Men” made its debut in 2012 with eight episodes featuring three intrepid outdoor enthusiasts: Marty Meierotta (an animal trapper residing in the small town of Two Rivers, Alaska); Tom Oar (a game hunter who hunkers down in the wilds and cold of northwestern Montana); and Eustace Conway (a camp owner in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.)
One sure sign of the show’s success– new seasons with double the number of episodes and double the number of mountain men. These guys are hearty; these guys are tough; and they all have really big beards. And there are probably certain days you just don’t want to be downwind of ‘em! But in the end, they also have big hearts, which is one of the reasons why History’s “Mountain Men” has attracted consistently high ratings and shares:
Real Rural Viewers
Given the majestic wilderness settings for the show (and the over-arching theme of survival against the elements), we had a strong hunch “Mountain Men” would attract a rural audience. But after looking at Acxiom PersonicX Clusters, we were surprised at just how rural the show really is!
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.
Out of 70 PersonicX Clusters, we found 13 with a minimum 120 ratings index (or higher) for “Mountain Men.” A quick perusal of the “urbanicity” column below says it all. The three clusters with the highest household rating (“The Great Outdoors”, “Rural Retirement” and “Country Ways”), are the three most rural PersonicX clusters measured by Acxiom. And only two out of the thirteen clusters are not considered rural:
Local Cable Advertising Demand
Over the past two seasons, more than 160 advertisers across 41 Viamedia markets ordered nearly 1,500 30-second spots on “Mountain Men.” That comes to an average of almost 9 spots per advertiser. And, if we confine our analysis to the current season versus year ago levels (within the 26 markets that exhibited advertising on “Mountain Men” in both years), we find an overall 14% increase in advertising investments, driven equally by increases in both the number of spots and average unit rates:
“Mountain Men” shares one key characteristic with many of the sporting events we’ve written about in this space – the predominance of the automotive category, which represents 55% of all investments in the show. What is, perhaps, unusual about this figure is that it far surpasses the automotive share we’ve seen in other “brawny” reality-series (such as “Deadliest Catch”, “Ax Men” and “Gold Rush”):
On to Season 4
There is, of course, a bit of tromp-l’oeil to all reality-series, and maybe more so with “Mountain Men.” After all, these outdoor adventurers are being filmed (on land) by a crew of cameramen; some of them don’t have to do this for a living; and the danger they face is not really at the same level of, say, those who hunt for Alaskan King Crab in the “Deadliest Catch.”
Still, “Mountain Men” certainly conveys a certain sense of danger and awe. The end of Season Three (2014) brought all sorts of challenges to a head for these rugged individuals – a record cold snap; jagged ice flows; deadly predators and lonely isolation. It’s the sort of drama that promises to keep this franchise going through Season Four, attracting strong viewing levels and firm commitments from local cable advertisers.
For more information on Viamedia, visit www.viamediatv.com.
– Written by Jonathan Sims, VP Media Research, Viamedia