History’s Web Aspirations Include Online Originals

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The History Channel is expanding its online offerings with original content — including acquired documentaries produced by George Lucas — and developing six major TV specials, according to officials.

The network’s Web site will have five “digital brands,” including short-form original broadband series featuring rarely seen historical footage, and a military blog that will enable users to experience soldier’s stories directly from the front lines.

On the TV channel, specials planned include A Global Warning, Stalking Jihad and The Lost Book of Nostradamus.

“We want to grow History.com and broaden it within the core viewership of the linear network, as well as nurture it as a broad portal for history enthusiasts everywhere,” said Nancy Dubuc, The History Channel’s executive vice president and general manager.

“We need to be offering original content and original entertainment. … History.com is a place for history enthusiasts to be entertained and a historical resource for information on all things history.”

The History Channel, for its Web site, acquired the rights to a collection of 94 never-before-seen documentaries that are a companion to The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones TV movies. Created and executive-produced by Lucas, the documentaries will premiere on History.com late this year. The television movies will air on The History Channel and History International.

Other new online offerings include “Band of Bloggers,” which will collect raw “soldier-generated content” from military bloggers who use digital cameras, cellphones and the Internet to deliver uncensored news from the battlefield. The destination will be anchored by daily video posts from dedicated bloggers, offering exclusive updates for History.com. “Band of Bloggers” also will ask soldiers to post their own videos about their war experience.

The Young Indiana Jones documentary collection will premiere on History.com, and help diversify the site’s broadband library. History.com will develop a rich media broadband site that will feature the documentaries, along with other relevant content. The documentaries also will air on History International and History Classroom.

Also in the works for History.com:

  • “Hero Ships,” a short-form broadband series that brings to life fascinating moments in a legendary ships’ history. Veteran crew members will provide firsthand accounts of dramatic episodes that have come to define the legend of a particular vessel, from the USS Missouri to the USS Omaha.
  • “History Uncut,” offering moments of history that are unedited and unfiltered, just as the cameramen recorded them. This series will put the spotlight on memorable events over time, such as the Wright Brothers’ first flight attempt.
  • “The Naked Underground,” an exclusive broadband series that is an off-shoot of Cities of the Underworld, the weekly series that began April 23 on The History Channel. Four- to five-minute short-form pieces explore an urban myth linked to a particular city.
  • “The Greatest Stories Never Told,” an original short-form series based on the Greatest Stories Never Told books by Rick Beyer. Every episode tells a fascinating, little known story from history with a surprise twist.

On the TV network, The History Channel will examine two hot-button issues and two iconic historical figures in four major specials to air in the fourth quarter.

A Global Warning looks at the history of climate change; Stalking Jihad investigates the story of a CIA mission to track down Islamic terrorists in the Philippines; Lost Book of Nostradamus attempts to deconstruct a manuscript found in Italy’s National Library thought to contain prophecies from the seer; and Manhunt explores what many historians consider the first terrorist plot against the American government: John Wilkes Booth’s assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

The message of The History Channel’s slate of specials is “the contemporary nature and how relevant history is to today,” according to Dubuc.

Global Warning is a perfect example of subject matter that is one of the most hotly debated and discussed issues of today, but the history of our climate change has been literally going on for billions of years,” she said. “We bring a very unique perspective to an incredibly contemporary subject. That is really the perfect intersection for us.”

The History Channel will have two major specials airing in 2008. China’s First Emperor, a co-production with China Central Television, tells the story of one man, Chin Shihuang, who changed the face of China forever. Egypt Project chronicles the exploits of the pharaoh Radjedef.

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