If you were a devotee of AM radio back in the early 1970s, you probably heard quite a few novelty songs, including “Amos Moses” by the late country singer and song-writer, Jerry Reed. The song had a catchy up-tempo twang to it that started out something like this:
Now Amos Moses was a Cajun.
He lived by his self in the swamp.
He hunted alligators for a livin’.
He just knock 'em in the head with a stump.
Now, I wouldn’t suggest singing “Amos Moses” around a real alligator hunter, but I found myself belting out the tune while watching History’s, “Swamp People”, which follows a few hearty Louisianan Cajuns engaged in one of the (craziest) occupations I can think of – hunting down alligators… and I mean real big ones!
There’s something so primordial about alligators in their native swamp setting that it’s almost as though we’ve been genetically programmed to have enough sense to stay as far away from them as possible! So, either these intrepid Cajuns are of entirely different breed; or, maybe they’re just adhering to the old saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” by which I mean they are squeezing out a way of life in the Atchafalaya River Basin where there’s not a whole lot of money floating around (just gators.)
Indeed, these rural swamp people have very little time to catch their quarry – something like 30 days (legally) to earn their keep, which often represents the majority of their annual income, so they’ve got to use all their ingenuity (and quickly) to bag these gators. Needless to say, it’s quite dangerous work, not to mention pretty darn scary, which is why millions of viewers have found this show so entertaining. And although “Swamp People” is off about a third from its peak viewership in 2013, the show is still chomping off very respectable ratings and shares:
We often utilize local DMA ratings to document the regional skews of high profile national cable programs (and sporting events.) But when it comes to a reality series like “Swamp People”, which is set in the lower Mississippi River valley, there’s no need to get overly empirical about where this show is most popular. One picture will do the trick, so we’ve included a heat map for the 2015 premiere episode “Bounty on the Bayou.” TV markets with above average viewing are rendered in warm colors (red/orange), while markets with below average viewing are in blue. As you can see, the southeastern states of the gulf coast are red hot for the show:
Strong Local Cable Advertising Demand
Over the past two years, nearly 250 Viamedia cable clients have ordered 2,400 30-second spots in “Swamp People.” On average, that comes to about ten local cable commercials per client across 49 markets (two-thirds of Viamedia’s national footprint.)
(Source: B.I.G.SM database -- Copyright © 2016 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved)
We’ve profiled several “tough guys at work” series in this space from both History and the Discovery Channel, and they all share one thing in common: lots of automotive advertising. “Swamp People” is no different with 45% of all advertising generated by auto manufacturers and local dealerships. The second largest category at 18% -- Tune-in advertising – is five times the share level we typically see for this category company-wide (across all programming):
The title of the show, “Swamp People” can be taken two ways. Literally, these are people who make a substantial part of their living in the swamplands of the deep rural south. But “Swamp People” has another connotation as well – people living on the fringe of society, which is a theme that runs through every show – nearly 100 episodes and counting. These are tough, self-reliant swampers supporting themselves in an unconventional way. Their language; their food and music; and their general philosophy toward life is quite distinct from mainstream America, and yet still very much a part of the American story. And starting February 15th, History will once again show audiences just how compelling a way of life that can be.