Joining cable ranks

Military History net aims to recruit auds

NEW YORK — The Military History Channel is planning to blast its way into cable TV homes.

No cable operators or satellite distributors have signed up yet, but the net isn’t worried because its parents are the popular A&E and History Channel.

Dan Davids, president of the History Channel USA, said Military History will be able to draw on a massive library of programming commissioned over the last two decades by A&E and History.

Among the repeat specials that will run in primetime when Military History goes on line for what Davids calls an “open preview” starting Wednesday are five documentary miniseries under the umbrella title “Battle History,” dealing with the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.

Other specials during the “Salute to Armed Forces Week” include “Hispanics & the Medal of Honor,” “America’s Black Warriors,” “Women Combat Pilots” and “Clash of Warriors: Saddam vs. Schwarzkopf.” What the network calls its “hard launch” won’t come until the spring.

Military History’s main competition is the Military Channel, one of the many spinoffs of Discovery Channel. Military Channel, formerly called the Discovery Wings Channel, kicks off under its new identity Jan. 10, focusing on “the personal stories of servicemen and women,” as well as “in-depth explorations of military technology, battlefield strategy, aviation and history.”

“Our core viewers have told us that they want more military-oriented programs,” said History’s Davids. “But we couldn’t fully accommodate them on History Channel because it covers so many different subgroups of history, including architectural, archaeological, technological, social and political.”

As a nine-month-long prelude to setting up a 24-hour network, Davids created a two-hour block of military-history programming on the History Intl. channel on March 27.

When asked what dial positions he’ll negotiate for on cable systems, Davids said, “I’m not a big believer in digital tiers because that will narrow the potential viewership for Military History.”

Davids said the network deserves to bypass tiers and go directly to digital basic because “this programming will get viewers,” particularly males. Davids’ pitch to cable operators is that they could use Military History as a recruiting tool to get subscribers to buy digital boxes.

Military History is History Channel’s third spinoff network, following History Intl. and History Channel en Espanol.