History Channel Analysis - October 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 /October 2010 vs. October 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

Another big month for History.  Record setting numbers are all over the place.  Network press confirms it to be the highest rated October in the channel's history.  Total viewers and key demos are up more than 50%.  Median age is down a notch.  Most important, the success is no longer just a Monday night phenomena.  Sunday has become a formidable night in its own right.  In addition, increases can be found across the week, albeit with a lesser magnitude.

Two news series hit the schedule in October.  First up is AMERICAN RESTORATION.  Second highest rated series launch ever according to the network, with 3.7M viewers on premiere night.  Outperformed the network averages by a wide margin.  Most important, it filled the AMERICAN PICKERS Monday timeslot admirably.  If numbers can hold up in November, expect a second season real soon, possibly to anchor another night on the schedule. 

Second new property was IRT: DEADLIEST ROADS.  A spin-off concept from ICE ROAD TRUCKERS, this one takes three of our favorite drivers over to India to take on the dangerous roads of the high Himalaya.  The camera angles put the viewer right on the edge of the cliff, and one can truly feel a part of the experience Lisa, Rick, and Dave are going through.  Although we're not sure which is worse, the potential for landslides, the 7000 foot sheer drops without a guardrail, or the constant horn blasts from impatient local drivers.  In terms of ratings, IRT DEADLIEST was the second highest rated series launch for target adults according to the network.  Drew well over 3M viewers on launch night.  Factoring in the rest of the month, IRT was roughly 20% above average for target men.  It's a keeper.

Speaking of ICE ROAD TRUCKERS, the original franchise wrapped its 4th season with solid numbers.  Network research confirms double digit growth from the Season 3 finale.  Looks like the guys up north aren't slowing down.

PAWN STARS once again occupies the top spot.  The Monday anchor featured four premieres in October, three of which were the highest rated exhibitions of the month.  Overall numbers were down from September, but that's the repeats talking. 

AMERICAN PICKERS featured two very strong premieres along with a couple repeats.  Series was 3rd highest rated on the schedule, only behind Monday companion PAWN and replacement AMERICAN RESTORATION.  Although strong, it was down from September.  Broadcast premieres and Monday Night Football the likely culprits.

SWAMP PEOPLE rounded out Sunday nights, also with big numbers.  3M per episode according to the channel's press.  With four new episodes in October, SWAMP overindexed the schedule averages by 25% with target men. Elsewhere, STAN LEE'S SUPERHUMANS was off 20% from September.  Also running below the channel averages:  THE UNIVERSE, MODERN MARVELS, and GANGLAND. 

Two specials drew modest audiences.  REAL STORY OF HALLOWEEN was slightly above average on the Tuesday prior to the holiday.  I AM ALIVE, looking at the 1973 Andes plane crash with the Uruguayan soccer team, was just below average. 


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.