Mars a hit for Discovery

The red planet opus beat expectations with its debut, bringing most viewers back for part two last Sunday despite season premieres on Global and CTV.

An ambitious project about an equally lofty flight to the Red Planet appears to have connected with Canadians, who handed strong numbers to the Discovery Channel’s two-part Race to Mars. The $20-million mini beat expectations when it debuted on Sept 23 – playing to 370,000 viewers (2+, national) – and brought most of them back for part two, which reached 310,000 in the same slot last Sunday.

The two-hour premiere aired opposite the return of Global comedies The Simpsons and King of the Hill, but avoided the season premiere of Desperate Housewives on CTV a week later. Mars was the number-one show on specialties among adults 25-54 and 18-49 and is the now the channel’s most-watched homegrown special to date.

‘Although some of the repeat airings did not perform up to Discovery’s estimates, I think the program delivered strong audiences,’ says Dennis Dinga, VP, director of broadcast buying at M2 Universal. A rerun of the first part on Sept. 26 reached only 83,000 viewers (2+), airing in part opposite the debut of Private Practice.

Discovery president Paul Lewis says his net is ‘really pleased overall’ with Mars‘ performance, and offered some reasons for the weak repeat airing. ‘We did not promote the repeat airing because we did not want people to become confused between part one and part two. But also, we built so much interested in (Mars) that people who really wanted to see the show were drawn to the premiere.’ Discovery reaches about 7.6 million Canadian homes.

Race to Mars will be followed by a companion documentary series, Mars Rising, which is set to debut this Sunday in the same time slot.

From Playback Daily