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== Online Advertising ==
 
== Online Advertising ==
 
The advertisement portion of the Animal Planet website seeks to utilize their new gritty industrial drive geared towards revamping the popular image of the television station and subsequently drawing more viewers. As of such, the website overall feels well thought out, flashy, easily navigable, but at the same time themed more along the lines of a visceral rather than fluffy feel. The advertisements all push either Discovery or Animal Planet shows involving clips or dynamic still shots with the airtime of that specific show. The presence of Discovery’s ownership of Animal Planet is easily viewable through their own shows present alongside Animal Planet shows as well as a button that links to the Discovery Channel online store. In fact, the only non-Discovery or Animal Planet advertisement comes from Google, but it includes Google searches on Animal healthcare and other animal geared topics.  
 
The advertisement portion of the Animal Planet website seeks to utilize their new gritty industrial drive geared towards revamping the popular image of the television station and subsequently drawing more viewers. As of such, the website overall feels well thought out, flashy, easily navigable, but at the same time themed more along the lines of a visceral rather than fluffy feel. The advertisements all push either Discovery or Animal Planet shows involving clips or dynamic still shots with the airtime of that specific show. The presence of Discovery’s ownership of Animal Planet is easily viewable through their own shows present alongside Animal Planet shows as well as a button that links to the Discovery Channel online store. In fact, the only non-Discovery or Animal Planet advertisement comes from Google, but it includes Google searches on Animal healthcare and other animal geared topics.  
+
We have discussed how in 2008, Animal Planet attempted to recreate its image due to falling audiences. Before 2008, Animal Planet had lots of fluffy and educational shows about animals often with the ‘god’ voice speaking over images of cute animals. At this point the show appealed to a very specific audience, however, when fewer people kept watching, Animal Planet decided on a major overhaul. They pushed for a much more visceral feel with more human animal interactions in order to try and draw audiences. A good example is the show Fatal Attractions, also talked about previously, which focuses not only on dangerous exotic animals, but the psychology behind people who keep them as pets. I would argue that the Animal Planet Website through its advertisements, which draw the eye with powerful images and words printed in striking fonts, only furthers this revamped image. The fact that the website only advertises Animal Planet and Discovery shows further seeks to attract further viewers. Overall Animal Planets advertising does an excellent job at both furthering their image and trying to attract new viewers.
        We have discussed how in 2008, Animal Planet attempted to recreate its image due to falling audiences. Before 2008, Animal Planet had lots of fluffy and educational shows about animals often with the ‘god’ voice speaking over images of cute animals. At this point the show appealed to a very specific audience, however, when fewer people kept watching, Animal Planet decided on a major overhaul. They pushed for a much more visceral feel with more human animal interactions in order to try and draw audiences. A good example is the show Fatal Attractions, also talked about previously, which focuses not only on dangerous exotic animals, but the psychology behind people who keep them as pets. I would argue that the Animal Planet Website through its advertisements, which draw the eye with powerful images and words printed in striking fonts, only furthers this revamped image. The fact that the website only advertises Animal Planet and Discovery shows further seeks to attract further viewers. Overall Animal Planets advertising does an excellent job at both furthering their image and trying to attract new viewers.
 
  
 
== Fan Participation  ==
 
== Fan Participation  ==

Revision as of 18:27, 30 November 2010

Industrial Analysis

Ownership History

On June 1, 1996 Discovery Communications launched Animal Planet as the only channel to explore the relationship between people and animals or as its website states:

“Animal Planet…is the world’s only entertainment brand that immerses viewers in the full range of life in the animal kingdom with rich, deep content on multiple platforms. APM [Animal Planet Media] offers animal lovers and pet owners access to a centralized online, television and mobile community for immersive, engaging, high-quality entertainment, information and enrichment.”[1]

Animal Planet was born into Discovery Communications’ family of channels including, at the time, The Learning Channel and the Discovery Channel fostering their slogan, "The number-one nonfiction media company." Just 4 years after Animal Planet was born it broke the 100 million subscribing household mark globally. Discovery Communications went on to acquire The Travel Channel and launch channels including Discovery Kids and Discovery Health Channel.[2] In 2007, the success of the Discovery Communications networks earned it the most nominations ever, eighteen, for the 18th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards. Today Animal Planet Media includes the cable network, AnimalPlanet.com, Animal Planet Beyond, Petfinder.com, as well as other media platforms.[3]

Production, Distribution and Transmission

Discovery Communications owns its own production studio, Discovery Studios. Discovery Studios has offices in both Silver Spring, Maryland and Los Angeles. It creates originial series, specials and short-form content for all of its channels. It also produces theatrical documentaries under the banner: Discovery Films. The only series currently airing on Animal Planet produced by Discovery Studios is Into the Pride.[4] Perusal on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), however, will reveal that Discovery Studios produces a majority of the specials and documentaries that air on the channel. The other series in Animal Planet's line-up are produced by independent studios such as: Powderhouse Productions, Gurney Productions, and Intuitive Entertainment. The list goes on. Common clients between these independent studios are MTV, A&E, and the Food Network.[5]

After a 9% drop in primetime viewing in 2007, Animal Planet underwent a makeover to increase viewership. Marjorie Kaplan, president and general manage of Animal Planet Media said,

"We feel a little too human, a little too soft, a little too all-family and not powerful enough. We're being more aggressive and tapping into the instinctual nature of compelling animal content."[6]

The channel wanted to replace its paternalistic and preachy image with a more entertaining and edgier one beginning February 3, 2008 and debuted eight new series and specials. Rather than targeting full families, this makeover would specifically target 25-49 year olds. Included in this transformation was the replacement of the elephant and globe logo with a words-only logo that would be placed over a number of animal photographs.[7] This rebranding of Animal Planet continues today with its new slogan, "Surprisingly Human" mentioned in an April 2010 press release by the network emphasizing Kaplan's assertion that, "There is no human world separate from the animal world" replacing its original "All Animals, All the Time" slogan.[8]

Discovery Communications started distributing Animal Planet by purchasing the channel space of a New York Superchannel, WWOR EMI Service. This channel based out of New York broadcasted nationally as a form of a local channel. This allowed Discovery Communications to air Animal Planet according to the recently passed Syndex Laws which protected local channels rights to air syndicated television of which they had exclusive ownership. This specific channel was chosen because of the close ties between Advance Communications, who at the time owned WWOR EMI Service and Discovery Communications. In fact, at the time Advance was a partial owner of Discovery Communications. WWOR EMI Service only airs Animal Planet US, however, the channel is broadcasted in a number of other countries in conjunction with the BBC.[9]

Today, Discovery Communications reaches more than 1.5 billion cumulative subscribers in over 170 countries with over 100 worldwide networks.[10] Nationally, Animal Planet is available in 85 million homes nationwide.[11] Some of providers of Animal Planet include Dish Network, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and DirecTV. Animal Planet's website suggests contacting local cable providers to learn whether or not they carry Animal Planet. The website goes a step further with a cable finder feature that helps people find local providers in their area so they can tell their providers they "want Animal Planet now!" In September 1, 2007 Animal Planet HD was also released and is available through these same providers.[12]

Programming and Scheduling[13][14]

Animal Planet's programming this season certainly highlights relationships between people and animals. The most popular series on Animal Planet are: Whale Wars, River Monsters, Monsters Inside Me, Dogs 101, Cats 101, and Pit Bulls and Parolees. Whale Wars follows Captain Paul Watson and the Sea Sheperd Conservation Society as they try to stop Japanese ships from hunting whales in the name of research. A new series named Dolphin Wars echoes the same conservation motif and follows Ric O'Barry and his son (of Academy Award-winning documentary The Cove fame) in their efforts to save dolphins. Another new series is Last Chance Highway, a show produced by Al Roker Productions which uncovers an "underground railroad" which save stray dogs in the South and transports them to the Northeast for adoption. The most surprising new series that is set to debut is Taking on Tyson. It sheds light on the famous Mike Tyson taking on a setting no one has even seen him in before, the competitive world of pigeon racing. Pets have proven to be very successful on the channel as proven by the popularity of Dogs 101, Cats 101 and Pit Boss. Other themes Animal Planet's shows also touch upon are the paranormal, near-death encounters (often through confrontations with an animal) and the scientifically bizarre to create compelling television. 

Animal Planet's morning programming (8:00-10:00 a.m.) shows a very obvious trend, dogs, with the shows Pet Star and It's Me or the Dog on Monday through Friday. Weekend morning television is lighter fare with The Planet's Funniest Animals--an obvious imitation of America's Funniest Home Videos. Dogs continue to be the name of the game until noon when episodes of Animal Cops Phoenix begin airing encompassing a wider range of pets. Early evening and evening programming maintains many of the same shows but also includes episodes of Weird, True, and Freaky and The Most Extreme as more compelling television for adult viewers home from a day at work. Depending on the day, Animal Planet may air new episodes of their shows, TV specials, or movies during their primetime hours.

Branding and Promotion

Included on the Animal Planet's online shop are: posters, clothing, DVDs, toys, "fan gear" and books. The website organizes all of its merchandise in categories such as show and subjects to make for an easy online shopping experience.[15]

Partnerships

Oh June 17, 2004 the National Aquarium in Baltimore announced a multi-year partnership to support a 65,000 square foot Australia expansion. The $66 million, "Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes" exhibit included an orientation film made by Animal Planet to give visitors background on Australia's Northern Territory shown in the exhibit. The exhibit was housed in a crystal pavilion and recreated the sights and sounds of the Northern Territory.[16]

On October 8, 2007 Discovery Communications and JAKKS Pacific, Inc. announced that through Discovery Kids licensing agent Big Tent Entertainment, JAKKS had signed a worldwide master toy license agreement with Discovery Communications. The toys produced under this agreement include puzzles and activity kits.[17]

Textual Analysis

Pit Boss (January 2010-Present)

Despite being a fairly new show on Animal Planet, Pit Boss has and is garnering a fan base. The show is part of the channel’s attempt to make over its image from a family audience to a more mature one. Pit Boss premiered halfway through the television season on January 16, 2010.[18] Intuitive Entertainment, independent from Discovery Communications, produces the show. It’s notable other production is Millionaire Matchmaker which airs on Bravo.[19]

The first season of Pit Boss lasted from January 2010 through February 2010. High demand of more new episodes prompted Animal Planet to order new episodes of the show from Intuitive Entertainment prompted season two of the show.[20] Ordering more episodes of Pit Boss was also strategic for Animal Planet because the show would be able to capture viewers sick of reruns and reality shows during the summer with a documentary-type reality series. The new episodes released in the summer also made more of an effort to give viewers a deeper look into the characters’ personal lives.[21] This plays upon the channel’s slogan, “Surprisingly Human” and suggests that the pit bulls which are misunderstood are metaphors for little people. Animal Planet has not yet confirmed yet whether or not they want a third season.

The show follows Shorty Rossi in Los Angeles who manages two businesses. He founded a production company, Shortywood Production Company, speciflcally geared towards managing and providing little people with jobs in the entertainment business.[22] His employees; Sebastian, Ronald, and Ashley and himself are also little people. While Pit Boss watches Shorty’s work in the entertainment industry, it focuses more so on his efforts with his other business,Shorty’s Pit Bull Rescue. The business strives to rescue pit bulls from poor conditions and simultaneously shed a better light on the breed. The subtext of the show is that they are fighting to “overcome stereotypes—for themselves and the pit bulls they save.”[23]

Perhaps most interesting part ofPit Boss for viewers is the protagonist himself. Animal Planet describes him as having, “lofty ideals, a though attitude…a devilish sense of humor and quick temper.”[24] Shorty openly speaks about his darker past which included running away from home and involvement in a gang that led to a ten-year prison sentence.[25] Once out of jail he pursued acting; a difficult task for a four feet tall man. Notable films he has appeared in are Daddy Day Care and The Grinch. A stunt accident, however, kept him from acting and he decided to found a production company, Shortywood Production Company and then he began Shorty’s Pit Bull Rescue in 2001.[26]

Apart from his incredible past, Shorty is also very charismatic on television. On Animal Planet’s one minute video, “Meet Shorty” he wears "hip" fedoras and at times stands in front of a heavily graffitied wall with a cigar in hand as if he is in an urban setting.[27] On the show, Shorty and his employees frequently say: piss, hell, ass and damn and Shorty also smokes cigars and drinks wine.[28] He can sometimes be depicted as a loud, tough-love businessman. The mature but yet edgy content in the show point towards an effort on Animal Planet’s part to attract the 25-49 year old demographic mentioned previously in the industrial analysis.

New episodes always air at 10 pm on Saturday nights, a time that other networks often use to air reruns, movies and sporting events. Therefore, Pit Boss gets a better chance to attract viewers and earn good ratings. Animal Planet’s president, Majorie Kaplan, admitted that, “Saturday night is our pet entertainment night, and while I wouldn’t necessarily call it kid-friendly, it’s definitely kind of lean back and lighter.”[29] Pit Boss fits the mold in that conflicts in the episodes are usually resolved by the end of the show and the colorful personalities of Shorty and his cohorts help to lighten the mood. Considered a hit, Pit Boss ended its second season with 984,000 viewers during its finale on October 23, 2010. In comparison, the second season of Jersey Shore averaged 5.8 million viewers (more than doubling their viewers from season one).[30] As of 2009 Animal Planet averaged 589,000 viewers during primetime.[31]

Fatal Attractions (March 2010-Present)[32]

Fatal Attractions is a TV show that explores the unusual exotic pet that some people own. The show focuses on the owners that live in the United States and have a passion for exotic animals and keep them in their house with them. As most people know, exotic animals are commonly the most dangerous ones because they are used to be in the wild and their defense mechanisms has adapted to that lifestyle. TheAnimal Planet crew decided to examine the relations that these people had with their pet and made a TV show about it. Fatal Attractions in many ways fit the new look of the channel, which we discussed in the first report.

The show presents stories of owners and their relationships with their exotic pets. The show fits the new targeted audience of Animal Planet is the population between twenty-five and forty-nine years old. The sometimes-terrifying nature of the stories indicates that Fatal Attractions looks at a mature audience. Some owners tell stories of getting attacked by their pet and facing death in some occasions. This also follows the idea of the channel that wants to be less of a “furry” type channel where the real life of animals attacking human was sometimes hidden just because the audience used to be younger. Now that they made a switch to an older targeted population, however, the shocking content is an asset to the channel’s diversity of shows.

In the same order of ideas, the channel’s brand is well represented by this show because it has some key things that the audience wants to see when they are sitting at home. There is the animal content where they show the actual pets in their new environment. Then there is the relation between the pet and its owner that gives people the sense that it could be them. The focus of Animal Planet is to show the audience things that could happen to anyone so the people can relate the shows to things they have seen or want to do in the near future. Even if possessing an exotic pet is not something everyone could do, it at least shows people that someone just like them has done it.
As discussed in the first report, when Discovery Communications launched Animal Planet it was to explore the relationship between human and animals. This show is doing just that. It explores the close relationship of a pet and its owner in everyday life.

The show is aired on Friday nights, Saturday during the day and Sunday at night. This kind of schedule influences the targeted audience because the time it airs is usually the time where the young kids are in bed and the parents are having time for themselves, except the Saturday during the day. It satisfies the channel’s strategy to attract the audience because the show proposes a vast variety of relationship between animals and human, also it is offered at a time where usually people’s day are most likely over and it is their time to relax.

The major goals of Animal Planet considering the production of the show was to reach out to a broad audience and please them with an interesting exploration of exotic animals and their owners. The production meets all of the goals the channel created when it revamped its look. The show offers a very simple production where they follow owners in their daily routine with their pets.

Audience and Online Analysis

Online Presence

Animal Planet does not have the biggest presence online because they do not advertise on many websites other than their own. They have created a great website for their fans and it is really easy to navigate through. Although some of the features are sometimes a little hidden they provide a big variety of things. One can find anything about the channel and what is offered as TV shows. There are also previews of the shows aired to give people a little taste of what they can watch on the channel. Animal Planet does not seem to allow websites like Hulu to show full episode, because when you look for either a certain show or the channel as a whole there are only small excerpt. It is then harder for the viewers to watch shows but at the same time it gives an incentive to the public to watch the show on television with it is aired. The viewer has a fairly good opportunity to show his or her interests on what he or she would like to see on the channel. The website lets the viewer chare their comments on the TV shows itself because when you click on the link to a certain show there is a link where you can send an email to Animal Planet. Also they do not have many advertisements of other things on their website and from a personal perspective it is a good thing because it makes the website focus on their programs only and not a whole lot of different things that could take people’s eyes away from their content. It could be arguable that the fact that people cannot watch the shows online diminishes the number of fans they have because the accessibility is restricted but it is a choice they made not to and they must have reasons behind it.

Online Advertising

The advertisement portion of the Animal Planet website seeks to utilize their new gritty industrial drive geared towards revamping the popular image of the television station and subsequently drawing more viewers. As of such, the website overall feels well thought out, flashy, easily navigable, but at the same time themed more along the lines of a visceral rather than fluffy feel. The advertisements all push either Discovery or Animal Planet shows involving clips or dynamic still shots with the airtime of that specific show. The presence of Discovery’s ownership of Animal Planet is easily viewable through their own shows present alongside Animal Planet shows as well as a button that links to the Discovery Channel online store. In fact, the only non-Discovery or Animal Planet advertisement comes from Google, but it includes Google searches on Animal healthcare and other animal geared topics. We have discussed how in 2008, Animal Planet attempted to recreate its image due to falling audiences. Before 2008, Animal Planet had lots of fluffy and educational shows about animals often with the ‘god’ voice speaking over images of cute animals. At this point the show appealed to a very specific audience, however, when fewer people kept watching, Animal Planet decided on a major overhaul. They pushed for a much more visceral feel with more human animal interactions in order to try and draw audiences. A good example is the show Fatal Attractions, also talked about previously, which focuses not only on dangerous exotic animals, but the psychology behind people who keep them as pets. I would argue that the Animal Planet Website through its advertisements, which draw the eye with powerful images and words printed in striking fonts, only furthers this revamped image. The fact that the website only advertises Animal Planet and Discovery shows further seeks to attract further viewers. Overall Animal Planets advertising does an excellent job at both furthering their image and trying to attract new viewers.

Fan Participation

A search for message boards on Animal Planet’s website leads to a list of a number of discussion forums. 5 of the 7 forums are based on specific people and/or shows. One named, “Jane Goodall”, about the well-renowned anthropologist bearing the same name, even allows participates the opportunity to “send a message to Jane.”[33] The message board dedicated to Steve Irwin was created posthumously and members continue to post on the boards demonstrating the breadth of his impact.[34] The other two forums are extremely broad: “Animal Heroes” and “Pet Talk.” “Animal Heroes” gives people a chance to speak with agents from their shows: Animal Precinct, Animal Cops and Miami Animal Police, providing viewers with an opportunity to develop relationships with TV stars. In “Pet Talk”, viewer’s can ask real vets for advice.[35] Because Animal Planet wants to present itself as an educational channel, it reinforces viewers’ trust in its brand through the authoritative voice of professionals. There are some forums with just 1 topic and others with hundreds of thousands that members have begun with countless more posts.

Case Study #1: The Planet's Funniest Animals

AnimalPlanet.com's page for The Planet's Funniest Animals contains 82 cliips of the animal antics highlighted on the show--the clips are all under one minute long. Although Animal Planet has fansites for each of their shows, none of these sites actually allow fans to contribute to the page. The Planet's Funniest Animals fansite has 5 main sections: "About the Show", "Viral Video", "Fun & Games", "Tune In" (schedule listings) and a link to iTunes where fans can purchase episodes of the show. There is no specific thread for the show within the Animal Planet forums; the topics that surround the show would be encompassed in the "Pet Talk" thread.

On TV.com viewers can not only partake in forums, but they can also submit their own reviews of TV shows. Most participants seem to take the task seriously and provide a paragraph or more of their thoughts. On the review page for The Planet's Funniest Animals member “RedShadowDragon” articulates what the other contributors appear to be getting at and says,

“Who doesn't like funny animal vids? No, that's not the problem with this show. The problem is the hosts, narration, & similar (sometimes better) vids can be watched on the net commercial, narration, conveniently & for free.”[36]

For a show that is essentially a loop of humorous animal antics, it is interesting that its viewers have such thoughtful reviews. Most of the reviews came to a consensus that their issues were not with the content; in fact they enjoyed the show immensely. Most of their complaints pertain to the replacement of the original show host with another in 2005. The show’s forum features a thread named, “Old host vs. new” in which half of the people responding in the thread side with the new host and the other half with the old. One member named, “sportacusgirl” felt so strongly that the original host (Matt Gallant) was superior to the present one that she even created a Yahoo fan group dedicated to him and encouraged the other members to join it.[37] Another suggestion the viewers make to the channel is an easier home video submission process. At the end of each episode a mailing address is displayed onscreen. Many viewers displayed frustration at this "old-fashioned" process and argued for online submissions.[38] It is surprising that Animal Planet has not yet embraced digital submissions. It may be afraid of copyright issues if fake submissions stolen from the internet were to be aired on the show. Although the show’s narrative is fairly formulaic (following in the footsteps of America’s Funniest Home Videos), these comments demonstrate a yearning by the viewers for a higher quality product and show that they are not afraid to voice their opinions in forums as well as in Yahoo groups.

Case Study #2: Animal Cops: Houston

The Animal Cops page organizes its videos differently than The Planet's Funniest Animals; the videos are organized into compilations of 8 or so clips from different episodes. The site has more links because there are 7 Animal Cops cities on Animal Planet although a number of these are no longer producing new episodes.[39] Also unlike The Planet's Funniest Animals page, Animal Cops provides a direct link to its message boards where, as previously mentioned, members can speak directly to some of the agents although after perusing the boards it is difficult to tell who the "animal cops" are from the members. The main dispute on the Animal Cops: Houstonforum is over the shows makeover in the past few years. Fans who watched the show from the beginning tended to dislike the, "excessive sound effect shockers...[which is] detracting from the experience of the show," whereas those who stated to be new to the show embraced the makeover.[40]

The reviews and forums on Animal Cop: Houston from TV.com do not offer much analysis of the show's content. Instead most of the comments are about the emotional impact the show leaves on its viewer. The comments suggested that the show was achieving Animal Planet's goals to pull on viewer's heartstrings in order to garner higher ratings and even entice fans to its Animal Cops page where the menu of links includes a link to adopt a pet. One reviewer of the show denied buying into the show and expressed annoyance towards the Houston cops for cracking down on trivial offences. He even mentioned that he has emailed producers of the shows who reveal to him that they dramaticize the content so that the owners come out looking like villians and the cops as the good guys. He is incredibly critical of the show's hypocrisy and goes as far as to call the Houston cops the "Houston Gestapo."[41] Not surprisingly, his review was the longest one on the page.

Case Study #3: The Crocodile Hunter

Without a doubt, Animal Planet’s largest star was Steve Irwin. His show, The Crocodile Hunter gained immense popularity not just in the United States, but it also aired in syndication internationally. Its success brought about two spin-offs, The Crocodile Hunter Diaries and Croc Files.[42] His untimely death on September 4, 2006 by a stingray brought about an enormous outpouring of support from fans. The day after his death thousands of fans visited the Australia Zoo and left flowers as well as other items to show their support. His conservation charity, Wildlife Warriors, received a dramatic increase in donations.[43] One of the more bizarre responses to his death was the online game named, “Terri Irwin’s Revenge” which was distributed via email with the gamer as Terri Irwin who attempts to kill as many stingrays as possible. Reporters also deducted that fans lashed out at stingrays and attacked them when a number of them were found on beaches in Australia near where Irwin had been attacked.[44] An hour-long public memorial was held for Irwin in the Australia Zoo with 5,000 people in attendance including the Australian Prime Minister and included video tributes by celebrities such as Russell Crowe. The public memorial was also broadcast across the world to 300 million people.[45] In memory of their beloved star, Animal Planet aired marathons of The Crocodile Hunter as well as a special on him.

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