History Channel Analysis - January 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 /January 2010 vs. January 2009  (% Change)




Monday 8-11pm




Tuesday 8-11pm




Wednesday 8-11pm




Thursday 8-11pm




Friday 8-11pm




Saturday 8-11pm




Sunday 8-11pm




MTWTFSS 8-11pm




Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

January has traditionally been the top rated month of the year so challenge was set.  Thanks to one veteran and one rookie series, that challenge was met.  Audience levels were on par with year ago, and well ahead of December.  Total audiences were down, but the drop in median age indicates it was the older viewers outside the target demo.  Median was at its lowest levels in 18 months.

Story of the month was the debut of AMERICAN PICKERS.  The rookie comes out of the gate as the #1 series on the schedule for total audience, target men, adults, and even the women.  Following a couple guys down the backroads of Iowa, into the dusty barns and sheds in search of modern treasure, it's proven itself to be a worthy companion to PAWN STARS.  Only two airings thus far, but we don't see this one slowing down any time soon.

PAWN STARS may have dropped to #2 on ratings chart, but it's still the property that carries the network.  Target men were up another 10% from December.  15 of the top 20 spots were filled by PAWN STARS.  The two weeks of premieres with AMERICAN PICKERS as the lead-in were two of the highest rated telecasts in months for the channel.  Even a smattering of repeats spread across Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday have carried their respective time periods. 

AX MEN came back with a strong start to its third season.  Overall numbers were solid and largely consistent across the month.  It anchored Sundays as the highest draw for target men, making the night the 2nd strongest of the week in that all important demo.

FOOD TECH premiered near the end of the month with above average numbers on Thursday nights.  A Saturday repeat didn't fare as well.  This one just feels a little out of place coming out of MODERN MARVELS.

LIFE AFTER PEOPLE struggled to start its second season and then rebounded later in the month.  Still, this cool look at a post-human world wasn't able to gain much ground on a schedule filled with greater successes.  We love this series and hope it can hang around for a 3rd season, but it's got to pick up the pace to make it happen.

Showing mixed results were a batch of Armageddon themed singles, MODERN MARVELS, and the 4th season premieres for MONSTERQUEST.   Newcomer MADHOUSE never gained any traction and was pulled from the prime schedule after three weeks.  Too much fighting and not enough story for this viewer.


Strategic Opportunities:

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 takes on the same label, but in a format that can go year round.  Hosted series remain a big focus of the network.  Someone who can stand out from the crowd and still maintain the credibility needed for a channel devoted to history.   Until recently, formats have been the domain of sister network A&E.  History have been more active in formats.

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.  Witness THE UNIVERSE as Exhibit A.

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.