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‘Bloggers’ Makes History on the Web

Apr 30, 2007  •  Post A Comment

The History Channel, often associated with black-and-white World War II documentaries, is using new media to tell the story of a new war.

Soldier-generated content from the ongoing Iraq war will be the centerpiece of “Band of Bloggers,” one of the new features coming to the History Channel’s Web site, History.com. “Band of Bloggers” will feature video and text from those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan to provide a unique perspective on the conflict.

A “Band of Bloggers” special is scheduled to air on the History Channel in the third quarter to support the launch of the online project, said Nancy Dubuc, who earlier this year was named executive VP and general manager of the History Channel.

“It’s really great material. It’s very powerful, and these guys are incredibly articulate and passionate about what they’re doing,” she said. “This is a generation that’s going to see history recorded first-hand. We take our responsibility in preserving that record very seriously.”

The new online material will be featured at the History Channel’s upfront presentation for advertisers with sister network A&E this week. Ms. Dubuc previously unveiled several new series for History, ranked 17th among ad-supported cable networks in total prime-time viewers during the first quarter. The channel also will announce a fresh slate of specials at its presentation.

Adding original content to History.com is one of Ms. Dubuc’s priorities.

While many networks are starting to create programming for their Web sites, History.com has a “tremendous advantage” over the competition in the sense that it is drawing users who are history enthusiasts but not necessarily viewers of the channel, she said.

“It’s really important that we serve that audience just the way we do our on-air audience, with original product,” she said.

It’s also an important investment for the network.

“We’re spending a lot of time on originals to grow this as a business,” she said. “If you’re not in this space, I’d be worried.”

In addition to “Band of Bloggers,” another online offer is “History Uncut,” featuring unfiltered history as recorded at the time of the events. While a TV show may feature the few moments of the Wright brothers’ first flight, for instance, online viewers can choose to see the time spent preparing for takeoff.

“We wouldn’t take that kind of precious time to show every frame and every millisecond in the context of a documentary, but online allows us to express ourselves in a much more detailed way so that users get a deeper experience,” Ms. Dubuc said.

Other original online projects due to launch later this year include:

“Young Indiana Jones Documentary Collection,” a series of 94 historically accurate half-hour documentaries;

“Hero Ships,” a short-form broadband series featuring crew members talking about events on famous vessels;

“The Naked Underground,” an online series of four- to five-minute pieces about urban myths spun off from the History series “Cities of the Underworld”;

“Greatest Stories Never told,” a short-form series based on the books by Rick Beyer about little-known stories from history.

Under Ms. Dubuc, specials will aim to “tap into what’s popular in the zeitgeist of the moment and give it our very unique point of view.”

One special that fits that bill is “A Global Warning,” which looks at climate change from the perspective of the planet’s 4.5 billion-year history.

Other specials are about the rescue of Americans from terrorists in the Philippines, from Mark Bowden, the author of “Black Hawk Down”; “The Lost Book of Nostradamus”; “Manhunt,” about the search for John Wilkes Boothe after the assassination of President Lincoln; and a project about the pharaoh Radjedef, son of the ruler who built the great pyramids.

The History Channel also has secured the cooperation of China’s CCTV for the first time to make “China’s First Emperor.”

“Everyone’s been trying to make headway with CCTV,” Ms. Dubuc said. “That’s a very big deal.”