History Focuses On Demos Without Any
"We want to dimensionalize history and bring a sense of variety and excitement to the way we tell stories and make history relevant," said Nancy Dubuc, executive vice president-general manager, speaking as the channel gears up for the upfront.
The channel's makeover, which is more of an evolution, is not nearly as radical as the reinvention of sister network A&E several years back--although like A&E, History is looking to drop its median age, which hovers around 50. "If we found a sweet spot in the mid-40s, we'd be happy," says Dubuc, who was involved in the A&E overhaul, which was prompted by that network's plus-60 (and rising) median age.
A median age of 40 for History would be about midway in the network's 25-54 target. The audience skews slightly male, which Dubuc expects to continue.
Part of the impetus for contemporizing history, she says, comes from an increasingly competitive landscape, where the National Geographic Channel is expanding distribution. Discovery is reinvigorating its documentary emphasis, while Court TV could generate significant interest with a coming high-profile re-brand. "We must be aggressive," Dubuc says.
Still, while her network modernizes its programming/image, it wants to navigate carefully, in order not to stray too far from brand equity built on "authenticity and a level of credibility." Dubuc says that while the network is exploring a new tagline, it's not a focus. "It's very clear who we are and what we stand for. The importance of a tagline is debatable."
History Channel, which has the enviable Web address of History.com, posted $249 million in ad revenue in 2006--a 5% jump over the year before, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus. In pre-upfront programming announcements Tuesday, the channel said it has five weekly prime-time series in development. Among them:
"Ice Road Truckers" zeroes in on a cadre of bold truckers who journey across hundreds of miles of icy roads in northern North America, often on frozen lakes which can sink the rigs. Miners depend on them for supplies.
"The Universe" delves into the universally intriguing question: Is there life beyond Earth? Cutting-edge computer graphics help create templates for what alien life might look like. A history link comes from looks at trailblazing explorers who have made some headway into probing the unknown.
"Human Weapon," which could be launched as soon as this summer, tracks two hosts who venture to various corners of the globe to profile masters in martial arts fields--whether kung fu, karate or more exotic or unknown. En route, they offer insight into the regions, and how they gave birth to the specific expertise.