History Channel UK grows through region’s TV woes

Despite the unrest in today's UK telly landscape, History Channel UK is doing quite well for itself, thank you very much. It launched a sister channel this summer, and has plans to build upcoming strands and start another new channel soon. Here one of the channel's execs reveals the lean and mean operation's upcoming plans.
October 6, 2008

Amid the din of the headline-making cuts amongst UK terrestrials, History Channel UK has quietly launched a new channel and is confident it won’t be making any layoff announcements soon. Rachel Job, coproduction and acquisitions executive at History Channel UK, believes that its launch of the Military Channel in July is a sign that there are good things to come for the network.

Comprised of a 50/50 split of A&E Television Networks’ American programming and more localized content, the A&E and Sky-owned History Channel UK makes sure its programming is a mix of both US smash hits like Ice Road Truckers and more relevant local fare like 50 Things You Need to Know about British History.

The History brand also recently moved its archival-heavy war programming to the new Military Channel, freeing up the network to broaden its programming and attract new audiences with programs like Original Productions’ Ax Men.

A&E content makes up about half of History’s programming, and the other half is a combination of commissioning, acquisitions and copros. ‘We coproduce quite a lot with Channel 5 in the UK and a little bit with the other UK channels,’ says Job. ‘We also do quite a bit internationally, like with Discovery Canada.’ To keep the British audience happy, Job says they buy lots of programming from the BBC for a second run.

For those producers interested in pitching the channel, Job says she looks for three things: ‘It’s about good stories, your treatment reads well, and how you are going to make that work for a viewer.’ Be wary if your pitch features a host, as Job says the channel isn’t interested in fluffy presenters. ‘If it even needs to have presenters, we want them to have an encyclopedic knowledge and be very enthusiastic. We don’t want fluffy guys that don’t know what they’re talking about. Our viewers like fact, they like things they can talk about to their friends in a pub afterwards: ‘I saw this on the History Channel today’ kind of stuff,’ she says. ‘We don’t want things that are based around archive programming; we’ve got plenty of that. We want something new.’

Job is also proud of History Channel UK’s track record with getting back to people. She says since the network isn’t a huge entity, the channel is quick and efficient in both the commissioning and acquisitions process.

Currently History is looking to build seasons and strands, and plans on larger seasons next year as well as launching a new channel in the UK in the near future. In the meantime, Job and her co-workers are very busy running History Channel UK and the Military Channel, as well as running the European feeds across Benelux and Scandinavia, and running the African feed from their office. So don’t expect any screaming headlines from History Channel UK anytime soon.

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