History Channel site reborn with 94 Lucas docs


Although The History Channel is by its very nature firmly rooted in the past, the network heads into the upfront ready to make a significant investment in the future.

This summer, History will relaunch its Web site, beefing it up with the addition of five digital brands, including exclusive broadband video and a blog devoted to military matters. Updated daily, the "Band of Bloggers" destination will feature footage shot by soldiers on patrol in hotbeds like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Also coming to History.com are a slate of 94 half-hour documentaries developed by filmmaker George Lucas. Bowing in the fourth quarter of 2007, each doc is based on events that took place during the early 20th century and are meant to provide context to Lucas' ongoing TV project, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.

(The docs should also serve as a promotional vehicle for the fourth installment of the Indiana Jones theatrical series, which begins production in June.)

Other digital series coming to the site are History Uncut and The Naked Underground, a short-form companion piece to History's newest series, Cities of the Underworld.

Earlier this month, History executive vp and general manager, Nancy Dubuc, announced a five-series development slate for the 2007-'08 television season, one that will place less emphasis on military history in favor of a more contemporary slant.

Along with the previously announced new series, Dubuc on Tuesday will unveil four specials scheduled to run on the linear net in the last quarter of 2007. These include: A Global Warning, which examines the science and history of worldwide climate change; Stalking Jihad, an exploration of the CIA's attempts to hunt down a cell of Islamic terrorists in the Philippines; and Manhunt, a look at the 12-day pursuit of John Wilkes Booth and his confederates, based on the James L. Swanson best seller of the same name.

Two other specials are slated for next year.

Earlier this month, Dubuc told Mediaweek that she was looking to age down the network a bit. "We're a male-concentrated network with an average age of 51. If I can bring that down five years by 2008, we'll be in good shape," she said. That effort has already borne fruit; in the first quarter, History upped its delivery of adults 18-34 by 19% versus the year-ago period.

Overall viewership has been flat-to-down, however. In the first three months of 2007, History averaged 1.1 million viewers in prime time, a dip of 4% year-over-year.