Quoth the Raven ‘Give me more’
Though they’ve faced their share of negative press for playing fast and loose with what history nerds (such as myself) consider to be the traditional boundaries of the genre, A&E Networks ceo Abbe Raven and History evp/gm Nancy Dubuc have received kudos where it matters – in the ratings. In Q1 2008, History enjoyed its best-ever primetime quarterly performance across all key demos, including total viewers (1.3 million), adults 25 to 54 (649,000), men 25 to 54 (449,000), adults 18 to 49 (585,000), men 18 to 49 (404,000), adults 18 to 34 (232,000) and men 18 to 34 (154,000).
There can be no doubt that much of that success has come about thanks to a commitment to bankroll huge amounts of new content. Last year, History announced a record number of originals, including some non-traditional reality choices, which were intended to bump the demographics meter down from geriatric to mature. In fact, at the time, Dubuc insisted that the channel could ‘drive appointment viewing’ with Ice Road Truckers and other new factual fare. While the pun was unintentional, the strategy was sound. And it’s definitely paid off.
So, what to expect this year? More of what worked last year. So much more. At the recent upfronts in New York, Raven announced US$650 million in program spending across the A&E and History brands to keep the party bumping. Included in that accountant-stunning number is money for several new series and specials, and a notable collaboration with Mark Burnett that will result in an eight-hour quest that retraces the expedition of Henry Morton Stanley to find the missing Dr. Livingstone.