Forging an ‘Empire’

History net expands spesh, adds 3 series

A weekly series version of the high-rated two-hour special “Rome: Engineering an Empire” is the highlight of the schedule to be announced today by the History Channel, which also has commissioned three other TV series for the 2006-07 season.

“Engineering an Empire,” which kicks off in the third quarter as a one-hour, 12-episode series, starts with Egypt and then covers such dynasties as Greece, China and Russia.

“Lost Worlds,” a 13-hour series skedded for late summer, deals with topics including the destruction of Pompeii, Ramses’ Egyptian empire, the real Dracula and Braveheart’s Scotland.

“Dogfights,” also 13 hours and slotted in for the fourth quarter, depicts famous air battles, including those of World War II, the Korean War and Desert Storm.

“Ancient Discoveries,” 10 hours beginning in the first quarter of 2007, focuses on the “ancient roots of technologies we like to think of as modern.” Shows include “Machines of the Gods/Temple Magic,” “Ancient Robots” and “The Siege of Troy.”

Seven specials are in production for 2006-07: “True Caribbean Pirates”; “Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower”; “The Exodus Decoded”; “Race to the South Pole”; “Inside the Volcano”; “The Dark Ages”; and the most elaborate of the group, “The States,” a 10-hour history of the 50 states, including famous legends and little-known facts.

“We’re hitting our stride,” said Dan Davids, president of History Channel USA, in a pre-upfront phone interview, citing last month’s ratings for the network, which scored its best adults 25-54 rating ever in March.

Returning series include History’s longest-running, “Modern Marvels,” and its highest-rated, “Digging for the Truth.”

History also plans to pump adrenaline into its Web site, adding 2,000 video clips and speeches, online games and e-cards, podcasts and links to information-rich sources such as online encyclopedias.