History Channel Analysis - November 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 /Novvember 2010 vs. November 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

Nothing new to report.  Another month, another set of records.  Network press lists this month as their "best November in history".  Key adult and male demos were up 20-30% over last year. 

The usual array of subjects led the way.  PAWN STARS, AMERICAN PICKERS, its sequel AMERICAN RESTORATION, and SWAMP PEOPLE were all above network averages for the month.  PAWN STARS was up an astounding 104% over last year for Adults 25-54.  Damn!  That's momentum. 

IRT DEADLIEST ROADS audiences bounced around about as much as the cargo loads on those rickety trucks in the series.  Still, male audiences remain loyal, pulling well above average on the Sunday night premieres. 

A handful of two hour specials scattered around the schedule drew some nice audiences.  REAL STORY OF THANKSGIVING was no turkey just three days before the holiday.  MARIJUANA: A CHRONIC HISTORY reinforced past success on this channel and others that illegal drugs is always a go topic for ratings.  WWII IN HD: THE AIR WAR extended last year's event series into the specials arena, with a couple more to come in December.

The big event this month was the long awaited debut of TOP GEAR.  Same format as the popular UK version, with new hosts and new locations for the US audience.  Loyal TOP GEAR fans will inevitably find plenty to grouse about, but it appears that this version could be a valuable addition to the channel's schedule, if the numbers can hold.  The premiere episode drew almost 2M viewers according to network press.  Most significant: the median age was just 38, the youngest ever for a series premiere in the channel's history.  And it's those younger viewers that will be the key to continued success.  Week #2 for the series saw a 25% plus drop for most demos.  Not unusual when there's such a massive promotional push behind the series launch.  However, even with the drop, younger men overdelivered network averages by more than 50%.  If those figures hold, it will be the younger men that drive TOP GEAR towards a second season. 

While we're at it, let's go ahead and cover December as well.  Another record month.  Now all we need is the press release to authenticate the statement.  Seriously, the real fun will begin in January for this channel when year ago numbers will be compared to the much higher baseline established throughout 2010. 


Series are the name of the game.  While the network had many years of steady growth, they were 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 are the 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 night 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.