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History Expects ‘Brothers’ Bump

Mar 1, 2004  •  Post A Comment

“Band of Brothers” is being given an important mission on History Channel, which on April 11 will debut the award-winning miniseries it acquired from HBO.
History executives expect the World War II drama to increase sampling of the channel’s regular series. And it should provide momentum into special events commemorating D-Day and its special “The Quest for King Arthur.”
The network, which paid a reported $6.5 million for the Steven Spielberg-Tom Hanks production, will air the 10 episodes of the show over nine consecutive days at 9 p.m. After that, the series will air Monday nights a 9 p.m. for 10 weeks. History will show the entire series during a weekend marathon in June.
To accommodate episodes created for noncommercial television without severe editing, History will allow “Brothers,” which will start at 9 p.m., to run beyond 10 p.m. With limited commercial interruptions, episodes will run as long as 77 minutes. History has been permitted to shorten the shows’ credits from three minutes to 45 to 60 seconds.
“We didn’t want to edit these shows, and we want to present them in different ways,” said Peter Gaffney, VP of program planning and acquisition at History.
Whenever “Brothers” ends the network will make a “hot switch” directly into other History shows that “we want to bring attention to,” Mr. Gaffney said. Those shows include “Mail Call,” “Modern Marvels,” “Tactical to Practical” and “Deep Sea Detectives.” He expects that “Brothers” will be compelling enough to hold its audience through 10 p.m. and that viewers, having missed the first few minutes of the shows on other networks, might decide not to change the channel after “Brothers” is over. The network will get back on a regular hourly schedule at midnight by shortening its 11 p.m. program.
Four sponsors have bought the bulk of the limited ad time in the series: Jeep, UBS Securities, Cisco Systems and the U.S. Army.
Dan Davids, general manger of History Channel, said he hoped the show could average a 2 rating on the network and would attract a broader audience than its regular male-skewing programming. Because “Brothers” is a drama, it’s likely to attract more women, and because the soldiers are young, younger viewers may tune in as well. With 86 million subscribers, History will make the show available to many viewers who weren’t able to see it on HBO. (Many viewers missed the show’s original run on HBO because it premiered Sept. 9, 2001, just before the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.)
The programs following “Brothers” will demonstrate the variety of the channel’s programming. “We are a network that is about more than World War II. Everyone knows we do World War II. We’d like to present some other things we do as well,” Mr. Gaffney said.
History Channel plans to promote the series the way it promotes other marquee properties, said Michael Mohamed, head of marketing. TV and radio spots, print and outdoor ads will use the theme “Give It a Hero’s Welcome.”
History Channel is also working with the Veterans of Foreign Wars to promote the miniseries among its members. The channel will ask veterans to write and tell their own war stories. Some will be posted on History Channel’s Web site, and some veterans will win a trip to the World War II memorial in Washington.
Mr. Davids thinks the series will give the channel momentum going into its week of D-Day programming June 1 through June 6. In addition to two specials, the network will have D-Day-themed episodes of all of its prime-time programming that week.
The tide should stay high for “The Quest for King Arthur,” which airs June 20.
Of course, History is already on something of a high. The channel had its best fourth quarter ever, and January was the highest-rated month in History’s history.