Returning for a seventh season in on October 14th is one of Discovery Channel’s most popular burly men reality television series: “Gold Rush.” The show follows a bunch of devil-may-care, tough guys who risk their all for the mining of placer gold deposits as far north as Alaska, and as far south as Guyana, South America. But wherever these intrepid, “go-for-broke” miners roam, they ultimately have to ply their trade in harsh, isolated settings, dealing with natural disasters and balky equipment, not to mention the ever-present danger of working alongside big ugly machines that gouge riverbeds and slippery mountain slopes.
At a time when live television usage has declined in the face of rapid digital growth and a marked increase in DVR activity, “Gold Rush” has managed to deliver consistently solid ratings and shares over the past four seasons:
All the more remarkable is the fact that “Gold Rush” has delivered strong viewership levels despite saturating its audience with so much content! Over the past four seasons, “Gold Rush” has averaged almost 21 hours of regular programming – in other words, about 21 episodes per season. But “Gold Rush” also airs supplementary episodes, such as “Pay Dirt,” “The Dirt” and “Legends,” which collectively add another 24 hours of cable content. So, in other words, Discovery Channel has managed to avoid viewer fatigue despite the fact that “Gold Rush” has been averaging about 45 episodes a season, crammed into a 5-month window:
DVR Viewing Through the Roof
Not only has “Gold Rush” maintained solid Live ratings throughout the years, but it has also generated impressive DVR viewing as well – a sure sign of viewer interest and engagement. Last season, for example, the show delivered Live + 15-Day DVR ratings that were 3-times the size of Live-only ratings:
Small / Rural Market Appeal
Back in 2014, we profiled the “Gold Rush” viewer in this space utilizing PersonicX segmentation data grafted onto comScore set-top-box panel homes. We found a strong concentration of rural homes that watched “Gold Rush”, which is (maybe) not so surprising given the rural, “man against the elements” setting for the show.
We decided to update our geographic analysis for “Gold Rush” homes – but this time utilizing comScore market level viewing data for the show’s Season Six premiere entitled, “Blood, Sweat and Gold” (which aired on October 16th, 2015.) We first ranked the entire DMA list (210 markets) from the largest market (New York / 7.37 Million HHs), to the smallest (Glendive, Montana / 4,230 HHs.) We then divided the markets into 5 equal groups (or quintiles) of 42 markets each and then calculated the average household universe estimate and average premiere episode household rating for each quintile.
As can be seen in the chart below, the largest market group (i.e., Quintile 1) has an average universe of ~1.70 Million HHs per market, which generated — on average — a household rating of 1.37. The smallest market group (i.e., Quintile 5) has an average universe of only ~63,000 HHs per market. But these small markets – many of which are rural — generated an average 2.48 HH rating – 81% higher than the largest markets:
Local Cable Advertising
“Gold Rush” has attracted significant demand from local cable advertisers. Over the past two seasons (Five & Six), well over 250 advertisers have ordered 4,000+ 30-second units across 54 Viamedia markets (roughly three-quarters of our national footprint.) That comes to an average of over 15 spots per advertising client. (Source: B.I.G.SM database — Copyright © 2016 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved)
And when we confine our analysis to the 46 Viamedia markets that exhibited advertising in “Gold Rush” over the past two years, we have seen a 67% growth rate in local cable advertising driven by a surge in 30-second units. Moreover, the growth has been driven by increased advertising across 83% of Viamedia local markets:
Local Cable Advertising Categories
Given that “Gold Rush” deals with brawny guys digging for gold with all sorts of heavy equipment, it comes as no surprise that the Automotive Category accrues the highest share of local cable advertising. But at 61% of all investments, that is still double the share we typically see for Automotive. The next five highest categories – with shares ranging from three to five percent – are all more or less in line with what we see company-wide across all programming:
Why has this reality series attracted such a strong following over the past six years? At one level, I suspect there’s some sort of vicarious thrill of just watching other folks taking on rough and tumble jobs while we sit comfortably ensconced in front of our television sets. But at a deeper level, “Gold Rush” is about family, friends and rivals actively participating in the American Dream – of starting over from scratch; rolling the dice and hoping one day to strike it rich!