Historian Dan Snow is looking to the future: the 38-year-old son of acclaimed BBC broadcaster Peter Snow wants to launch a Netflix-style TV platform dedicated to history programmes.
Snow, who has carved out a successful career as a historian with a string of TV series and books, is aiming to crowdfund £100,000 to back his vision of “a better history channel”.
Snow also presents a popular podcast called History Hit boasting a million listens a month. The new crowdfunding campaign, for an on-demand TV service with the same name, kicked off less than two weeks ago and has already raised more than £80,000 from over 1,200 backers.
I’ve got the biggest footprint of any digital historian.
So I figured, if it’s not me, it will be someone else and I’d be annoyed if I hadn’t done it.
Snow, who is married to Lady Edwina Grosvenor, the elder sister of the Duke of Westminster, explains his podcast is funded through advertising. However, he says: “To make good TV you have to go beyond that [and charge].
“There are a few people getting into other genres and we wanted to get out there and be the first international, top quality, history video and on-demand channel; to put a stake in the ground.”
The money raised in the crowdfunding is being used “almost immediately”, he says.
Filmed this week, Snow’s first programme plots a German Luftwaffe pilot taking the controls of one of the few Spitfires, flying it across southern England.
It will be the first time, we think, that any Luftwaffe pilot has been up in a Spitfire, which is completely remarkable.
The platform’s programmes will not all be created in-house; it will also license programmes. Both will require further investment, but Snow says he preferred to take the crowdfunding option to get the project up and running before talking to institutional investors.
“It means that when we go and have those conversations in the next round, we’ve got something more substantial to go to them with.”
But will people really be prepared to pay for history programmes when there is a wealth of documentaries available on free-to-air channels?
The Oxford University rowing blue argues there are enough sufficiently discerning history enthusiasts around the world prepared to pay for better quality content.
And, he says, there is wider untapped market in emerging economies.
A lot of the way people from India and China engage with English is through music and movies. But if you look at the list it is also through history and heritage. When they came to Europe they want to go to castles, they want to go to historic sites.
History Hit is trying to corner a niche rather than deliver the kind of broader appeal exemplified by the likes of Simon Schama with his popular BBC documentaries.
“We don’t have to worry about everyone being engaged in it, you have an audience of people that have already come to you and said: ‘We like history and we like your output.’”
He continues: “That is what Facebook and YouTube have shown us. That these new silos have come up that are all about knowing what the fans want rather than just punting stuff out to the general public and hoping it is just about good enough for everyone to get behind it.
“Across social media we’ve got hundreds of thousands people engaged with us. We get millions of likes and views every month. So we thought: let’s turn it into something.”