With the clear success of scripted series on History, the network is making scripted fare a larger portion of its lineup. Series THE BIBLE and VIKINGS, which debuted in March, scored massive numbers for the network, and, much like sister network A&E, there's more in the pipeline. In addition, character-driven series (SWAMP PEOPLE) s well as transactional programs (PAWN STARS) continue to score big.
The primetime schedule tends toward appointment viewing, with stacked episodes of programs airing throughout the night. Occasionally specials, stunts and mini-marathons of original series take over. Sundays, which have been in the past home to scripted series, have shifted back to unscripted originals, but this is slated to change in the coming months.
FEBRUARY 2013 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:
Live + SD Primetime Ratings Comparison / February 2013 vs. February 2012 (% Change)
Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample
THE BIBLE and VIKINGS in March 2013 delivered record-breaking numbers for the network. While there was a misunderstanding surrounding History's initial reporting of the numbers, it's undeniable that the network has found ratings gold in these two scripted series. According to network press, "[o]ver 27 million cumulative viewers tuned in to all or part of THE BIBLE on Sunday night making THE BIBLE the #1 show in all of television for the night and the #1 cable entertainment telecast for the year" (History Channel Press Release, 3/5/13) and "[o]ver 18 million cumulative viewers tuned into all or part of the two telecasts of VIKINGS on Sunday night, defeating all broadcast competition among Adults 18-49 (2.5 million) and Males 18-49 (1.5 million) in the 10 p.m. hour." (History Channel Press Release, 3/5/13.) While it's clear that the numbers for both series were staggering, the misunderstanding stemmed from an earlier release failing to indicate that the numbers were meant in terms of total cumulative viewing regarding an audience that sampled at least a part of the program. We will report more on both programs' performance next month.
February's numbers weren't quite as strong for History, however. Overall HH viewers were down 4% compared to last year, and fell even more among the younger male demographics. However, numbers were tempered with solid year-to-year gains on Saturday nights.
The brightest spot in February's numbers was the solid year-to-year increase on Saturday nights, though it was due entirely to re-airings of PAWN STARS. Monday nights, which were the strongest of the week for History, despite the year-to-year dropoff, also have PAWN STARS, along with AMERICAN PICKERS, to thank for the numbers. Both series continue to score above average, though they are both down significantly in viewers compared to last year.
February saw the debut of two new series for History - BIG RIG BOUNTY HUNTERS on 2/14 and ULTIMATE SOLDIER CHALLENGE on 2/19. BIG RIG, on Thursday night, was able to pull in above average numbers, but lost almost 50% of the lead-in numbers from SWAMP PEOPLE. ULTIMATE SOLDIER CHALLENGE wasn't able to hit average in its debut, and didn't hold the lead-in numbers from TOP GEAR on Thursday nights. The show then moved to Sunday nights, but didn't fair much better in the Sunday 10pm timeslot.
With big competition for viewers across the network and cable landscape during the month, February was somewhat of a transitional month for History. Several new high-profile scripted series like THE BIBLE and VIKINGS are clear game-changers for the network. We expect to see more programming like this in the future for History, as well as the emergence of sister network H2 as a home for the more traditional History fare, and more original series.