A&E Networks, home of History Channel, A&E and Lifetime, wants to be viewed as a six-network portfolio instead of three, and its most recent rebrand of History International as H2 could be the model for reinventing the company's other channels.
H2 was created in September 2011 as a place to house the documentary-style fare once prevalent on History, which moved toward more personality-driven fare such as "Pawn Stars" and "Swamp People." But media buyers note H2 is more than just a home for History's library content -- it will roll out about a dozen new originals in 2013.
The channel, which is in nearly 70 million homes, has quickly attracted both viewers and advertisers. H2 averages 365,000 total viewers in prime time, and 170,000 in its target demo adults 25-to-54, ahead of more established channels like Science, Military, HLN, Nat Geo Wild and Speed. Its first original series, "America Unearthed," is averaging 765,000 viewers in 2013 and surpassed 1 million viewers for the first time in January.
A&E Networks has been selling the History spin-off to advertisers as a place to reach "information cravers" that have been displaced as History focuses on entertainment programming.
"We know [with] our character-driven series, which is really all we do [on History], we can get a really broad male-skewing audience, but there's a portion of our viewers that still want the deeper dive," said Dirk Hoogstra, senior VP-development and programming at History and H2. "So we said "If they are out there looking for that information, let's give them a home.'"
"History is a male megabrand that has outgrown just one network," said Paul Cabana, H2 head of programming.
H2 reaches an audience media buyers say is underserved. "Outside of ESPN, where do you go to find the affluent male? This is a sweet spot for advertisers looking for these men," said Rob Bochicchio, exec VP-chief media-investment officer at ID Media.
"It's such a good cut of audience, the upscale male," said Mel Berning, president of ad sales for A&E Networks. "Male viewers watch a lot of sports, a lot of news, but news skews really old," he said, noting that H2 reaches men who aren't necessarily sports viewers. "You can't find these guys a lot of other places because they're not watching broadcast."
H2 is attracting more high-end advertisers from the financial, auto and tech world, said Marc Morse, senior VP-national buying, at RJ Palmer.