Museums don’t have to be boring, and neither do tv channels affiliated with them. That’s why the nearly year-old Smithsonian Channel – a joint venture between the Smithsonian Institution and Showtime Networks – is injecting popular culture into its history, culture and science programming. ‘We’re aware that for some people the Smithsonian name may connote slightly fusty museums, but the reality is this is a very contemporary organization with 600 scientists in the field that collect things like hip-hop memorabilia,’ says David Royle, EVP of production and programming at Smithsonian Networks. ‘We want to capture that and bring in new audiences.’ The channel’s new fall shows aim to do so with contemporary history fare such as Sound Revolution, a six-episode series produced by London’s Eagle Rock Entertainment about the global influence of American music. Then there’s the returning Stories from the Vaults series from Caragol Wells Productions, where actor Tom Cavanagh gets behind the scenes of the Smithsonian in what Royle describes as ‘an entertaining and slightly quirky way.’ Roughly 70% of the channel’s projects are copros, and 30% are acquisitions. ‘We want the sort of storytelling and drama you see in the best entertainment programming,’ says Royle. Nothing fusty about that.
Where it airs: Nationally in the US through Dish, DirecTV, Charter, RCN, Verizon and other smaller operators
How many people it airs to: Approximately 35 million
Hours on air: 24/7. Primetime looping when the 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. block repeats from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. for the west coast
Non-fiction programmer: David Royle, EVP of production and programming, Smithsonian Networks
Where to send pitches: Chris Hoelzl, VP of program development
Shows to watch for this fall: Secrets of Stonehenge, a science and investigation-heavy one-hour copro with BBC’s ‘Timewatch;’ The Vampire Princess, a one-hour copro with Austria’s ORF that uses forensic science to dissect the Count Dracula vampire legend