The US Travel Channel recently unveiled its 2009-2010 upfront slate, which brings back two of the network’s notable hosts, Anthony Bourdain and Samantha Brown, and introduces new series and special events. Travel Channel’s SVP of content, Michael Klein, takes realscreen through the highlights and the strategy of its upcoming season.
What is your programming strategy?
For the rest of 2009 and going into 2010, its all about entertaining the urge to experience. That is our mantra. Part of our creative filter is something called lust for life. We’re really dialing up that ‘entertain that urge’ [mantra], that lust for life in all of our programming. With food, always find that unique way into a destination experience.
What is the breakdown between commissions and acquisitions?
We are primarily commissions; percentage-wise we’re up I would say [to] 90% commissions, at least if not more. [That's] not to say if someone has a great acquisition that we wouldn’t look at it.
The Travel Channel’s audience has been growing consistently in both daytime and primetime viewing. What do you attribute your growing audience numbers to?
It’s engaging personalities, it’s a consistent offering for our audience, it’s great shows. In 2008 we had several new series launches, including Man vs. Food and Ghost Adventures, where we saw record numbers in both. [It's about being] in dialog with our audience, knowing when they want more, ordering more and continuing to have these long franchise plays.
Besides returning series like Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, The Travel Channel is embarking on new series and an ambitious ten-hour live event for Ghost Adventures.
Ghost Adventures is a multi-platform event, which we’re really excited to stage. Between the actual investigation, various webcams, online chat, and texting, there’s a lot going on. We’re also very excited about Worldwide Tribe. Ami James, Chris Nunez and Yoji Harada, all of which were in the former series [Miami Ink], are going around the world and using tattoos as their portal into that destination experience. They’re great guys; I launched their previous series at TLC so I’m delighted they’re here with us. We have Samantha Brown’s Great Weekends. The next series premiere is May 9 and we renewed for an additional series beyond that. We’re also doing Samantha Brown’s Asia later this year, which is an eight-part series. In December, Samantha Brown’s 10th anniversary is a week-long programming event devoted to Samantha that will feature her picks of her favorite places and some fan favorites as well. In America’s Worst Driver, each episode takes place in a different city in the US [where the] challenges are reflective of the city.
What advice do you have for producers pitching to you?
I think that people shouldn’t limit themselves into what they think would make a good travel show. For us it’s the ‘entertain the urge to experience’, and it’s [about] finding that unique point of view. An example is Dhani Tackles the Globe, with an NFL football player using his passion for sport to take us into a destination experience. It’s not a typical off-the-shelf Travel Channel travel series, but it’s one we’re immensely proud of. I think if people have a unique character and a unique talent, they should definitely reach out to us.