Back in November, BBC America replaced its entire Saturday schedule with shows and specials devoted to wildlife and the natural world, rebranding itself as Wonderstruck one day each week. Now, realizing audiences could use more cuddly creatures in their lives during the coronavirus crisis, Vulture has learned the AMC Networks–owned cable channel is doubling down on the concept. Wonderstruck will replace typical BBCA content on Thursdays, too, starting this week. The network is also launching a companion website, Wonderstrucktv.com, that will serve up free shortform nature-related content specifically designed to help lessen anxiety.
The move to expand Wonderstruck is a “response to this unique moment of social distancing and limited access to the outside world,” according to BBCA executive director Courtney Thomasma, and is expected to continue through the length of the crisis. “We have seen firsthand the incredible benefits of nature programing in reducing anxiety, promoting awe and inspiration, and facilitating feelings of interconnectedness, especially during times of anxiety and uncertainty,” she said. “We can’t imagine a moment where these benefits are more needed than now.”
What’s more, by scheduling the second day of Wonderstruck on Thursdays, execs are hoping parents who’ve become teachers in the wake of school closures can use the service as an educational opportunity for their kids. Toward that end, the BBCA/Wonderstruck marketing team has crafted interstitial vignettes featuring facts and trivia about the natural world. This Thursday’s lineup will be devoted to American nature, including the specials Wild Alaska, Wild West, Yellowstone, and the North American episode of Seven Worlds, One Planet.
As for the new Wonderstruck website, it’s been stocked with clips that can be searched by type of animal, geographical location, or the mood of the users. There are also preloaded sections with themes such as “educational,” “cute overload,” “ASMR,” “need a laugh,” “togetherness,” and “feeling anxious.” No cable subscription, log-in, or registration is required to view the shortform content, which is pulled from the BBC’s vast library of nature content. However, the site will link to full episodes of series and specials hosted at BBC America’s own website. To watch that programming, users will need to have a cable or satellite subscription.
While the Wonderstruck expansion was prompted by current events, the decision to do so was likely made easier by the fact that the Saturday initiative has been doing well in the ratings. Per Nielsen, BBCA’s Saturday prime-time ratings have grown 74 percent since November (to 305,000 viewers, including DVR replays) compared to the previous three months, with the channel showing similar gains in key demos. While some of the gains are likely attributable to seasonal adjustments — TV viewing tends to go up in winter compared to late summer and fall — the numbers are nonetheless impressive and a sign that BBCA’s marketing effort for Wonderstruck is paying dividends.
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