History Channel Analysis - May 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 /May 2010 vs. May 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

Here we go again.  For the 4th month in a row, History sets a new record.  All time greatest May ever according to the network's press.  Check this list of #1 rankings:  Adults 25-54, Adults 18-49, Adults 18-34, Men 25-54, Men 18-49, Men 18-34, and Total Viewers.  Really, not much left to say after that.  Well, let's give it a shot. 

With AX MEN on hiatus, the big three has become the big two.  PAWN STARS and AMERICAN PICKERS carry Monday night to extreme highs, and drive the network almost by themselves.  PAWN STARS has done so well so many times it seems there's a new press release out every week.  In May, it was the #1 regularly scheduled series with Men and Adults, both 18-48 and 25-54.  Repeats are limited to the Sunday night block, also pullling in fantastic audiences there. 

AMERICAN PICKERS continues to be the second half of the Monday 1-2 punch.  #1 in total viewers, and just behind PAWN STARS in the key demos.  Numbers were down a tad from April with the full repeat line-up.  New premieres coming in June so consider it a minor bump in its meteoric rise.

After the two star series, the end of the landmark offering AMERICA: THE STORY OF US carried Sundays for the month.  Following its record debut, the subsequent episodes have held up very well.  Nice to see solid American History find a mass audience in this series.  While the content doesn't provide a sequel in terms of the historical timeline, we hope the net can find a way to replicate its strengths on other properties.  Strong history, great storytelling, and a pace that keeps the curious audience interested across the full hour.

Looks like SLICED didn't disappear as we predicted last month.  Maybe it should have.  Series was under average for the month, with a couple of the 10:30 eps dropping very quick from the 10pm offering. 

MODERN MARVELS also showed up on Thursdays, but with markedly better results.  9pm premieres were all above average, and the 8pm inventory repeats were OK, depending on the topic. 

As one would expect, the net went after the Robin Hood movie with a debut special.  Unfortunately, results weren't so hot with the two hour Tuesday special barely bumping against the Tuesday averages.  Timely is good, but it's tough to do during broadcast sweeps up against American Idol's final stages. 


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.