The History Channel is now History

March 20, 2008 6:18:30 PM PDT
The History Channel is now history. Make that History. The cable network quietly dropped "the" and "channel" from its name recently, claiming History for itself.

"Our brand is, in the media landscape, synonymous with the genre of history so I don't think it's presumptuous of us to call ourselves History," said Nancy Dubuc, the network's executive vice president.

That's how many viewers already refer to it, she said. "Channel" is a drag on efforts to establish the brand in other media, like on the Internet. There were no licensing issues involved in the switch, she said.

The network has even changed its "H" logo to make it look bolder, less ancient.

Once dubbed "The Hitler Channel" for all of its World War II documentaries, History has switched to a more "immersive" style that tries to show rather than tell, she said. Adventure-seeking is in. Sitting in an armchair telling war stories is out.

History is following the model of Discovery, whose popular "Deadliest Catch" series about Alaskan crab fishermen is one of the most influential shows on cable. History has its own "Ice Road Truckers" about drivers on frozen lakes in Canada and just started "Ax Men" about loggers.

The series "MonsterQuest" may sound like a video game; it's about searches for mythic creatures.

"It's not exactly history, is it?" said Sean Wilentz, award-winning history professor at Princeton University.

"Anybody who thinks that there's only one place to go for history is badly mistaken," Wilentz said. "Why are they doing that? I don't know. Especially at a time they are moving away from history? I don't get it."

Although the attention-getting "Life After People" special dramatized a world after the human race had been wiped out - prehistory, in other words - Dubuc said she's concentrating on building signature series that people will return to each week.

Despite his bewilderment at the change, Wilentz and another prominent historian said they appreciated any efforts to get more people interested in the topic.

"Truth is that I love history so much and if the changed name brings more people to watch more history it's all to the good," said Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Gordon Wood, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian at Brown University, doesn't watch the network much.

"I must confess, I'm still back in the reading-of-books stage," he said.


History Channel and A&E: A&E Television Networks, a joint venture of Hearst Corp., Walt Disney Co. and General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal. ---

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