History Joins 'Band'

Home Box Office's Band of Brothers is marching off to The History Channel. History on Nov. 17 announced a multiyear deal with the premium service for the U.S. off-network rights to the award-winning miniseries, which told the story of "Easy Company" — the 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, U.S. Army — during World War II.

The 10-part, 10-hour miniseries will make its basic-cable debut on History during the second quarter of 2004. This marks the first time Band of Brothers will air on any U.S. television network other than HBO. Financial terms were not disclosed.

History Channel approached the premium service about acquiring the $120 million miniseries. The network will present Band of Brothers in a wide-screen format with limited commercial interruptions and very little editing for content, according to History Channel executive vice president and general manager Dan Davids.

"We don't believe that we'll have to do much," he said.

Band of Brothers, which first aired on HBO Sept. 9, 2001 and won six Emmy Awards, a Golden Globe and a Peabody award, is History's highest-profile acquisition. The network will have exclusive access to the film during the life of the deal.

"We've had other military history movies on the network over the years, but this has been such a groundbreaking miniseries that this is by far the most aggressive move for us," Davids said. "We think this is a win-win for The History Channel because it's an opportunity to open it up to a much wider audience."

HBO president of domestic program distribution Scott Carlin said History serves as a perfect outlet for the miniseries.

"The History Channel possesses the same values of historical accuracy that can be witnessed in this monumental production," he said in a statement. "Band Of Brothers
was much more than a miniseries to HBO … so, it is comforting to see [it] land in such respectful hands as The History Channel."

Davids would not commit to a launch date nor would he say whether the series would be presented as a daily strip or on a weekly basis. He also would not provide any ratings projections for the series.

The miniseries averaged a 12.6 rating (17 share) within HBO's universe for its premiere airings during fall 2001, according to Nielsen Media Research data. That translated into an average of 4.4 million households and 6.9 million viewers.

Viewership for the project, TV's most expensive effort to date, may have been constrained somewhat by the somber mood of the nation in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Band figures to provide a major boost to History's primetime ratings, which were flat during the third quarter at a 0.8 compared to the same period last year.

Davids said the Band of Brothers deal is not a prelude to a major movie-acquisition mandate for the 85.6 million-subscriber network.

"We go after programming that will help satisfy our viewers and [is] what our viewers are looking for," Davids said. "Whether it be an acquisition, something that we do on our own — whichever alternative we have to go through is what we're about."

In other History Channel news, the network's Nov. 16 special JFK: A Presidency Revealed garnered a 1.7 rating, making it cable's highest-rated documentary last week. The three-hour special, which explored the strengths and flaws of the former president, drew 1.9 million viewers.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.