Spirit of ’76 Incites Viewers

Cable viewers are finding a recent slate of Revolutionary War-themed programming very liberating and are watching in big numbers.

Executives said viewers currently living through a very partisan political environment have embraced the message of unity and American pride in tales of the country’s birth as told by shows such as AMC’s Turn: Washington’s Spies, American Heroes Channel’s The American Revolution and History’s Sons of Liberty.

“In a time where our country seems divided, the patriotic events of the pre- American revolution, from the Boston Tea Party to the Declaration of Independence, are American stories everyone can rally behind,” Dirk Hoogstra, executive vice president and general manager of History, said.

History’s miniseries Sons of Liberty averaged a strong 3.1 million viewers during its three-night run Jan. 25-27. The series, which followed which profiles the lives of a young and rebellious Sam Adams, John Adams, Paul Revere, John Hancock and Dr. Joseph Warren as they prepared to lead the colonies against the British in the Revolutionary War, drew 3.3 million viewers in its Jan. 27 finale.

Hoogstra said the show’s focus on familiar heroes of the Revolution before they became famous provided a different perspective not found in history books.

Sons of Liberty is a drama that inspires curiosity and we’re thrilled to see our viewers engage with American history in a way they might not have before,” he added.

Sons of Liberty wasn’t the only series on cable in recent months to revisit the Revolutionary War. AMC’s drama series Turn: Washington’s Spies — which chronicled the exploits of an unlikely group of spies who eventually help the colonists turn the tide against the British, averaged 2.2 million viewers (live-plus-7- day data) during its 10- episode run last April.

AMC will bring back Turn for a second season later this Spring, according to network officials.

A third series, The American Revolution from American Heroes Channel, averaged nearly 500,000 viewers for the Discovery-owned service this past December, well above the network’s 228,000 average primetime viewership in 2014. The three part mini-series showcased, through re-enactments, the rise of the revolution through colonial failures, setbacks and ultimate triumphs.

BET will shine a different light on the Revolutionary War later this month with its mini-series The Book of Negroes. The series follows the plight of several thousand blacks who fled slavery to serve the British during the American Revolution and eventually won their freedom.

Hoogstra said the Revolutionary War is a subject that Americans can’t seem to get enough of. “It is proven to be a subject that our audiences love and we will continue to explore other programming opportunities on the subject,” he said.

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.