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History Channel Analysis - June 2010


* Bold denotes programming change


Vestiges of the MODERN MARVELS strip still run at 8pm on several nights.  Premiere series tend to run at 9pm, with 10pm reserved for encore plays and/or established inventory series.  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 AX MEN.  Specials can be inserted on Sunday evenings without breaking the flow of the regular schedule. Stability has been the hallmark of the schedule.  Multiple episode series and very few changes give the viewer several opportunities to find their programs and develop a pattern of appointment viewing.


Live Primetime Ratings Comparison /June 2010 vs. June 2009 (% Change)

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

The network is making things easy on us again.  Another big month to finish off another big quarter.  June set new records in all the key target demos.  Total viewers and target men were up 20% or more over last year.  Put the icing on the cake for a record quarter.  Network press calls it their highest rated quarter ever in all of the key demos.  Numbers have now grown so much that History broke into cable television's Top 5 for the quarter in adults 18-49 and 25-54.  Now that's impressive.

The hit series are coming fast and furious.  Let's run the list:

At the top of the heap, it's no surprise.  PAWN STARS of course.  Again.  The boys in Vegas kicked off the summer with their third season and delivered some of the biggest numbers this network has ever seen.  Monday premieres were just phenomenal.  The June 14th showings garnered highest single telecast rating of all time according to the network.  Repeats didn't slow down much either.  This one's got a lot of legs.  Expect it to occupy the headlines on the channel for quite a while.

PAWN STARS companion series on Monday, AMERICAN PICKERS, kicked of June with a new season as well.  And again, the audience responded.  Network press identifies it as the #1 series on cable television for adults 25-54.  All three premieres landed in the network's Top 10 telecasts, behind only the six new episodes of the aforementioned PAWN STARS. 

ICE ROAD TRUCKERS was back for another summer of big trucks, perilous roads, and outsized characters from the top of the world.  Numbers were very strong, albeit not quite up to the standards of previous years.  Still, Sunday's premieres average 2.4M viewers, a number that most networks in the CU 30 would love to have on their schedule.  If there's a 5th season, and we believe there should be, we hope they return to Canada to drive those frozen rivers and oceans. 

Leading out of ICE ROAD TRUCKERS on Sundays nights at 10pm, TOP SHOT debuts on the schedule, averaging 1.9M viewers each week.  The competition series pits a dozen expert shooters against each other, firing weapons from different historical eras in a Survivor like format to determine the best of the best.  The storytelling and format is almost identical to Survivor in fact, although it hasn't hurt the appeal of the series.  TOP SHOT does very well with the younger men.  With the slew of WWII video games out there on the market, it's likely this series is clicking with that younger demo very nicely. 

Network regulars MODERN MARVELS, THE UNIVERSE, GANGLAND, and a few specials rounded out the schedule.  With the big Monday night  numbers, everything else shows up as below average.  In truth, most of these series are fine, just not breaking out like the new generation.

Finally, AMERICA: THE STORY OF US wrapped up a six week run on Memorial Day.  Audiences held up the entire series, reinforcing for everyone that traditional history is alive and well. 


Series are the name of the game.  While the network has had many years of steady growth, they had been searching for a breakout franchise that could stand above everything else.  ICE ROAD TRUCKERS brought just that a couple years ago.  Now, PAWN STARS and AMERICAN PICKERS take on the same label, but in a format that can go year round.  Hosted series remain a big focus of the network.  Until recently, formats have been the domain of sister network A&E.  Not any more.

Take what is "old" and make it "new" again. This is what keeps History hot with its core audience of males 25-54... Take a current technology or modern day event and link to its origins. Shows on technology are always a draw for History's viewers. Uniting modern science with its origins is what makes up just about all of their tech-based shows. THE UNIVERSE, LIFE AFTER PEOPLE, HOW THE EARTH WAS MADE have all had some pretty good runs on the channel.

History attracts a strong male audience that is otherwise tough to capture by a non-sports network. Male hosts and male experts have obvious appeal to History's viewers and male viewers in general. This also says something about the subject matter and type of content that appeals to this viewer: viewers are already familiar with the general topics covered in the programs, yet are given new information in an entertaining format.

Specials are taking a larger role on the channel.  The occasional Sunday or Monday opens up for two hour single topic special programs.   Saturdays have been dominated by repeats of the same specials, freeing up resources for regular series elsewhere.


Despite rumors to the contrary, "traditional" history remains at the heart of the channel.  Ancient times, military topics, archive based, they're all there.  The difference now is that they balance the network, but don't dominate it.  Shape your program pitches accordingly.