POV: You’re history

UKTV History
March 1, 2006

Goal: Maintain up-market ABC1 demo, but become more accessible to improve ratings. Lure more women.
‘Over the last couple of years we’ve decided to be more ruthless with the way we pursue our ratings.’ Adrian Wills, channel editor

More drama
Glossy docudramas get big audiences, but bring in a slightly less up-market viewer.

Lighter and brighter
Strand ‘What the (Romans, Stuarts…) Did for Us’ draws big audiences without diluting the channel’s up-market profile. Adam Hart-Davis hosts, who, Wills says, ‘when we launched would have been too lightweight.’

Less ‘old’ history
Biographies of Nelson and Henry the V now air alongside ones of John Wayne and Marilyn Monroe. Upcoming is the series, The Sixties: The Beatles Decade.

Less war
More social history means more women.

New shows on Sundays in Oct. raised ratings 26% above the 2005 average, and improved the Sept. to Nov. weekday peak 15% compared to the previous three months. In 4Q 2005, 33% of viewers were women, 9% more than in 2004.

Goal: Growing the adult 25 to 54 block to improve salability of the channel. Lure more women.
‘We’re trying to make the channel not feel like a stodgy old history channel.’ John Gill, SVP dramatic content

More drama
Dramatic docs such as Battlefield Britain and serialized dramas like Band of Brothers do well with men and women, even if they’re about war.

Lighter and brighter
‘We’ve done whole weeks where we’ve focused on colored, historical, war series, but picked up more women and more younger people than if we’d done straight black and white,’ says Gill.

Less ‘old’ history
Name recognition makes marketing easy. The Real Da Vinci Code earned the largest audience for a doc – about 300,000 viewers.

Less war
Crime shows attract women without sacrificing male viewers. Programs such as Antiques Roadshow keep women who tune into popular dramas such as Jag.

Between summer 2002 and 2005, the adult 25 to 54 block rose 39%. Aiming for a 60/40 male-female split, the channel has yo-yoed from 72/28 in 2002, 67/33 in 2004, and 70/30 in 2005.

About The Author
Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.