Young demo being wooed by History Channel

Feb 19, 2001  •  Post A Comment

The History Channel is looking to add more young viewers to its mix.
The cable channel, whose viewership has a median age of 50.7 years, is out to corral more young male viewers by introducing contemporary series that still stay true to the network’s history-programming mandate.
First up is “Hands on History,” a new series just greenlighted that will look at history from an unusual perspective by examining the evolution of widely known everyday products.
Products slated for review include Goodyear automobile tires, Louisville Slugger baseball bats and daily newspaper the New York Post.
The series, to be shot on location, is tentatively slated to run at 7 p.m. (ET) Saturdays starting in the fourth quarter. It could eventually become a prime-time strip.
“This is an opportunity to interest a slightly younger male audience, in their late 30s or early 40s,” said Charlie Maday, senior vice president of programming for the History Channel. “Hands on History,” produced by Knoxville, Tenn.’s Jupiter Entertainment, is an offshoot of “Save Our History,” Jupiter’s just-aired History Channel special on the construction of frontier homes.
Regarding “Hands on History’s” contemporary bent, Mr. Maday said: “We’re not going to do contemporary shows and say they’re historical. We will do a historical show with a contemporary look.”
The History Channel has already taken a contemporary pop approach with “History IQ,” its history game show, and “History’s Mysteries.”
History Channel will spend $60.7 million on programming in 2001, a 10 percent increase over last year, according to Paul Kagan Associates.
Network executives say a chunk of that is already earmarked for other younger-skewing history shows. History Channel plans to launch a new technology series along the lines of “Modern Marvels,” which profiles inventions and their creators. The series is penciled in for the first quarter of 2002.
“You’re definitely going to see more technology-based historical programs, “ Mr. Maday said. “It’s an area of history that really appeals to a slightly younger viewer.”
History Channel’s contemporary approach is paying off in higher ratings and more subscribers.
The network reached the 70-million-subscriber mark earlier this month, the fastest network to do so in cable history. Last year it boosted its prime-time ratings 14 percent to a 0.9 Nielsen Media Research rating, representing 571,000 homes. Network viewership climbed another
11 percent in January to a 1.0 rating and 668,000 homes.
Analysts give History Channel’s contemporary strategy high marks.
“It’s something that doesn’t seem significantly expensive to produce and yet it’s clearly a genre that has produced for History Channel before,” said Mike Goodman, senior analyst for the Yankee Group. “And if you can bring in a better demographic, all the better.”