I used to watch The History Channel all the time. It was my go-to station. Over the past few years though, that has changed. As it turns out, I’m not the only one leaving The History Channel for other options. According to Indiewire, their ratings have been consistently going down with 2016 continuing the trend.
Changes in Viewing Habits
Viewers have been transitioning to on-demand and streaming programming for the past few years. It’s this viewing trend that many analysts believe is driving down the ratings over at The History Channel.
While it’s true that Netflix and Amazon Video have really taken off, The History Channel can be streamed online by most cable subscribers. Those who truly want to watch it whenever and wherever they want, still can. Let me discuss the reasons why I stopped watching The History Channel.
Where’s the History?
It kind of goes without saying, that the allure of The History Channel is… well… History. As I write this, it’s Sunday, December 3rd, 2017 at 1:30 PM and do you know what’s on The History Channel right now? Counting Cars, a reality show about a Las Vegas chop shop. Do you know what comes on after that? Forged in Fire, a competition where modern blacksmiths compete to see who can forget the best blade. Guess what comes on after that? 5 more episodes of Forged in Fire – with the 5th one being a full 2 hours long (it’s a brand new episode apparently). It will be 9 PM before the first show comes on that has true historical references. That show, Manson Speaks: Inside the Mind of a Madman might be worth a watch.
So in the next 10 hours, only 1 show on the schedule will really have anything to do with history. And this brings me to the next point in why I stopped watching The History Channel: lack of depth. You see, Manson Speaks: Inside the Mind of a Madman is over 2 hours long and that’s just Part 1. Part 2 is also over 2 hours long and tomorrow, the pair is on 4 times throughout the day. A full 2/3 of tomorrow’s programming will be a single show.
A look at the current main programs on The History Channel shows even less history. Pawn Stars, Mountain Men, Ice Road Truckers, UFO Hunters, Top Gear, Swamp People, & Modern Marvels are just a handful of the branded programming that includes little to no history. Most of these programs are nothing more than reality TV.
History Channel Binge Programming
Flip to The History Channel on a Friday when you get home from work, and I can almost put money that you’ll be watching Ancient Aliens. The show is currently in its 12th season, which is probably about 11 seasons longer than it should have run. New episodes are normally aired on Friday nights. As a primer, they usually play reruns the entire day leading up to the new episode. The problem is if you think Ancient Aliens is a complete load of crap, then you’re not touching The History Channel on a Friday at all.
A quick look at the week’s worth of programming on The History Channel shows this is pretty much the case for all their anchor shows. While American Pickers is a great show that fits in well with the brand, very few people want to watch 10 episodes in a row. And it’s still reality TV.
Speaking of which, whatever happened to the single documentary programming? Everything is a series now that’s branded and pounded. A single idea, such as the Oak Island treasure should have been a 2-hour documentary. It might even pass as a 5-episode miniseries. Instead, it’s been turned into season after season of reality TV. The History Channel has favored dilution for the sake of more episodes.
Swapping Real History for Pseudoarchaeology & Junk Science
Arguably the worst infraction that’s driven viewers away from The History Channel is their decision to push programs based on pseudoarchaeology instead of true history. Shows like Ancient Aliens are a great example. Not long ago, The History Channel aired shows which celebrated the ingenuity of ancient humans by exploring Aztec ruins. Today’s programming uses pseudoarchaeology to insult ancient civilizations with unfounded claims that aliens built the pyramids and other monolithic structures. Archaeology and science have been replaced by theories pushed by ‘theorists’ with a zealousness normally only found in orthodox religious circles.
Other shows such as Hunting Hitler push fringe historical conspiracy theories by ignoring mountains of historical evidence and favoring small inconsistencies. They’ve eliminated the well-researched and fact-checked documentaries about World War II that served as a lesson and warning to future generations.
The History Channel now garners its material from ‘theorists’ and actors to create fictional dramas which are presented as fact. If there’s one thing that has caused the drop in viewership, it’s this. To make matters worse, the push for this type of junk science & reality programming destroys the credibility of legitimate shows.
So What Am I Watching These Days?
As a man who loves documentaries and educational programming, I’m digging the Science Channel and National Geographic. While most television shows have made the move towards more dramatic formats, these channels are still attempting to present facts & research. They present real history. They get their information from real historians. It’s refreshing.
Sharif Jameel is a business owner, IT professional, runner, & musician. His professional certifications include CASP, Sec+, Net+, MCSA, & ITIL and others. He's also the guitar player for the Baltimore-based cover band, Liquifaction.