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History Channel Analysis


Programming blocks and consistent scheduling seem to be History’s mantra.  Not too wide a programming mix, the primetime schedule is home to the solid favorites, giving viewers several opportunities to find their programs and develop a pattern of appointment viewing.  Thematic evenings take over on the weekend.  Network tends to run two-hour event docs on Saturday.  Sundays have become the home for the umbrella theme “American Originals,” including ICE ROAD TRUCKERS and AMERICAN PICKERS.  Specials can be inserted on Sunday evenings without breaking the flow of the regular schedule.


Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / December 2011 vs. December 2010 (% Change)

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

You can practically hear the buzz-words in the History marketing office when you look at their December schedule.  Words like “pawn” and “America.”  Probably “shrimp” and “swamp” as well.  They have defined and created a unique brand, and all their programming aligns.

After somewhat of a rough November, History had a nice rebound in December.  Overall, they were 8% up in households compared to November’s stats, though down a slight 3% compared to year-ago numbers.  The staples – PAWN STARS, AMERICAN PICKERS, and the like, are holding fairly steady compared to year-ago numbers, and both shows saw a nice jump from November’s numbers as well.  In fact, 15 of History’s top 20 telecasts were PAWN STARS.  (The other 5?  4 AMERICAN PICKERS episodes and a Pearl Harbor special.)

Mondays are the week’s strongest for History (by a long margin), with the aforementioned PAWN STARS and AMERICAN PICKERS bringing in above-average numbers for every telecast throughout the month.  Sunday nights were the second strongest, again, due mostly to more episodes of PAWN and AMERICAN PICKERS garnering an audience.

Tuesday nights’ lineup featured AMERICAN RESTORATION (buzz!) and pretty solid numbers to match.  The night was up 11% compared to last year, and saw positive growth across the female demos.

Wednesday nights saw a boost of 17% compared to November, though the night was down 3% from a year ago.  A somewhat “paranormal night,” returning staple ANCIENT ALIENS was up 15% from November, but down 3% from last year.  BRAD MELTZER’S DECODED, saw even more positive numbers, up 30% from November, and 11% from last year.

Thursday nights in December were a surprising struggle.  A lineup of BIG SHRIMPIN’ and SWAMP PEOPLE failed to deliver above-average audiences, and both programs saw a decline in viewers from last month.  BIG SHRIMPIN’ fell 39% from November, and SWAMP PEOPLE was down 14%.  Perhaps the docudrama elements didn’t align with History’s current audience as well as expected?  It will be interesting to follow History’s reaction to this as their 2012 lineup is rolled out.

INVENTION USA hit the air in December, replacing the under-performing HAIRY BIKERS in the Friday at 10pm slot.  Ratings bounced around a bit for the new series which featured REAL DEAL and PAWN STARS as lead-ins, and Fridays were up compared to both last month and last year.

The History audience is fickle and finicky, and programmers have a tough job of developing shows that the audience will believe in and return to.  Hitting the buzz words is good, but this audience clearly doesn’t respond well to shows that feel too “produced.”  Make it organic and real.