Network to air six new specials

The History Channel has greenlit six specials and acquired a raft of digital programming that includes a slate of documentaries commissioned and overseen by George Lucas.

Subjects will range from the topical, such as climate change (special “A Global Warning”) and fundamentalist Islam (“Stalking Jihad”), to the more historical, such as Abraham Lincoln’s assassination (“Manhunt”), archaeology (“Egypt Project”) prophesy (“Lost Book of Nostrodamus”) and China (“China’s First Emperor”).

All will debut between next fall and the summer of ’08.

The History Channel is set to announce them today at a Gotham upfront presentation.

Net is also beefing up its Web site with several digital originals on History.com.

Most notable is a set of 94 short docs it has acquired from Lucas which the helmer oversaw as companion pieces to his ABC series “The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones” but never aired on television.

The educational docs, which are mostly between 30 and 60 minutes, cover a wide range of topics including ballet, slavery and Al Capone.

Net had been negotiating with Lucas for years, but discussions had stalled until exec veep and general manager Nancy Dubuc revived them after joining the net from A&E earlier this year.

Lucas, Dubuc said, is interested in the teaching of history.

Docs will also air on History Intl. and History Classroom multiplexes.

Net has also commissioned several other digital series. They include “Band of Bloggers,” which features video taken by soldiers in Iraq; “History Ships,” about famous nautical tales; uncut footage from history such as the Reagan assassination attempt; “The Naked Underground,” an extension of weekly skein “Cities of the Underworld”; and “Greatest Stories Never Told,” about surprise historical incidents.

Move complements the earlier announcement of a younger-skewing slate of original series.

Dubuc says the goal of the topical specials and digital programming is to bring down History’s average age slightly from its current 51 without sacrificing the larger mission of history-centric programming that provides new ways of looking at historical events.

“This isn’t A&E. We’re not trying to remake ourselves that much,” Dubuc said, alluding to her previous net. “But we want to get younger by a few years. We don’t want to be five years from now and find ourselves five years older.”

Dubuc also said she plans to continue developing the Web site and hopes programming can flow more easily between the net and the online platform.

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