History Channel stays the reality course

Introducing 'Ice Road Truckers' spinoff, 'American Pickers'

Building on three years of ratings growth, History has ordered several reality shows, including a spinoff of Thom Beers' top-rated "Ice Road Truckers."

Under the leadership of president and GM Nancy Dubuc, History recently launched its 10 highest-rated series to date. She plans to continue the network's strategy of developing informative reality shows and headline-drawing event specials.

For next summer, Dubuc plans to introduce Beers' "Extreme Trucking," which takes the North American-based "Ice Road Truckers" format to locations worldwide where truckers navigate hazardous highways.

"There's an endless supply of dangerous roads, and they're in places where they're highly unregulated," she said.

History has given a green light to "American Pickers" (working title), planned as a companion series to its series "Pawn Stars, which set a year-to-date original-series record for the network Sunday night with 2.9 million viewers.

"Pickers" explores the world of antique and collectible hunters who travel the U.S. hunting rare artifacts. Ten episodes of the series -- produced by Cineflix, with David McKillop and Susan Werbe executive producing -- have been ordered for a January debut.

"It's a really funny show that follows two friends who have known each other since the eighth grade (as) they look for lost national treasures," Dubuc said.

Also coming to the network is "Madhouse." Previously announced as in development, the reality series revolves around rivalries at a North Carolina NASCAR track, where local families race to continue a 61-year feuding tradition. The show is produced by Triage Entertainment, with Stephen Kroopnick, Stu Schreiberg, Jym Buss, Grant Kahler, Aengus James, Tim Tracy, David McKillop and Carl Lindahl executive producing; 13 episodes have been ordered, and a first-quarter premiere is planned.

Another series on deck is "Sliced" -- from Powderhouse Prods., executive produced by McKillop and Julian Hobbs -- on which objects are cut in half to reveal their inner workings, produced by History and Powderhouse; and "9/12: The Day After" (working title), produced by New Animal Prods. with McKillop and Werbe executive producing. The special follows up the channel's Emmy-winning "102 Minutes That Changed America" documentary about 9/11 with a look at the day after the attacks.

The shows follow up on the network's expansion into more reality programming, which has helped reduce the channel's median age by four years (to 48) and has it nearly cracking the top 10 among basic cablers in the adult demographic. Year to date, History is averaging 1.2 million viewers in primetime.

"We've set a very clear course for what we want to do here, and we've done it so quickly we're almost on our second generation of success," Dubuc said.

Since arriving in 2007, Dubuc has helped transform History from a channel best known for historical docs to a more contemporary brand thanks to such shows as "Ice Road Truckers," "Ax Men," "The Universe" and "Life After People."

In the coming months, however, the network will re-embrace its roots with a trio of prestigious historical titles: the miniseries "World War II in HD"; the celebrity filled oral-history miniseries "The People Speak"; and next year's 12-part series "America: The Story of Us," billed as the network's biggest-ever production.

Although Dubuc will stay the course next year, she said she's committed to continue finding new ideas and not lean too heavily on recent success.

"You can never rest on what you did yesterday; it's old," she said. "You need to keep on the track; this race has no finish line."