When Nancy Dubuc became exec VP and g.m. of History Channel in January 2007, one of her first priorities was to make sure History didn’t become old news.
While World War II docs and specials about Egyptian culture still have a place on the network, Dubuc’s progressive thinking helped launch shows that had more of a contemporary sensibility. Even the logo got fine-tuned as the channel rebranded itself from History Channel to, simply, History.
“At the end of the day, what people thought about History Channel was that it was ancient and black & white,” Dubuc explains. “But that’s not what History is.”
Under Dubuc’s short tenure, History has seen nine of its shows become some of its top-rated ones in the network’s 13-year history. “Ax Men,” “Battle 360,” “The Universe” and “Cities of the Underworld,” for example, have all resonated with viewers.
If those shows seem as though they’re aiming for a hard-to-reach male demo, consider that part of the strategy — and a successful one. The cabler ranks No. 2, behind only ESPN, in a 68% male composition, and numbers in nearly every demo are at all-time highs.
“We pushed our content on a premium of execution and telling stories,” Dubuc says. “We spent a lot of time making the portfolio more balanced, and to encompass many genres.”
Dubuc’s programming choices have brought different generations of viewers together. While older men and war veterans continue to watch military specials, younger males are checking out series such as “Ice Road Truckers,” which details the travails of drivers who haul supplies over dangerously iced-over lakes that are turned into superhighways.
Both “Truckers” and “Ax Men” are exec produced by Thom Beers, whose Original Prods. shingle has become a highly sought male-viewer destination.
“These shows are authentic,” explains Dubuc about the net’s turnaround. “The audience has a very savvy nose of what’s contrived versus what’s authentic. By the nature of them feeling real, the stakes feel higher.”
Role model: “(A&E Networks prexy-CEO) Abbe Raven. She took a chance on me and gave me opportunities. I could never thank her enough for that.”
What I’m reading now: “I have two small children. I don’t read books.”
Most important issue facing Americans in this election year: “The value of the American heritage. The value of understanding where we come from and how that plays into where we’re going.”
Fave leisure activity: “Sailing.”
Career mantra: “Go with your gut.”