Smithsonian Channel

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Smithsonian Channel
Smithsonian Channel.PNG
Launched September 26, 2007
Owned by Smithsonian Institution
Showtime Networks
(CBS Corporation)
Picture format 1080i (HDTV)
(Downgraded to 16:9 480i for SDTV)
Slogan It's Brighter Here
Country United States
Broadcast area United States and Canada
Headquarters Washington, DC
Sister channel(s) Showtime
The Movie Channel
DirecTV 570 (HD)
1570 (VOD)
Available on most cable systems Check local listings for channels
Verizon FiOS 634 (HD)
AT&T U-verse 1118 (HD)
118 (SD)

Smithsonian Networks is a joint venture between CBS Corporation's Showtime Networks and the Smithsonian Institution. The service consists of Smithsonian Channel, Smithsonian On Demand, and

The network’s content is inspired by the Smithsonian Institution’s museums, research facilities and magazines It features original non-fiction programming that covers a wide range of historical, scientific and cultural subjects. It is also available from On Demand in both high definition and standard definition.

As of February 2015, approximately 33.6 million households (28.9% of those with television) receive Smithsonian Channel.[1]


The Smithsonian Channel features a wide array of programming covering science, nature, culture, history, air and spacecraft, and documentaries. They create everything from long-running series to one-off, in depth specials.

  • Aerial America showcases each of the 50 states from the air, with special episodes devoted to small towns, the wilderness, etc. Narrated by Jim Conrad.[2]
  • Soul Revolution hosted by Morgan Freeman premiered November 16, 2008.
  • Season two of Stories from the Vaults starring Tom Cavanagh premiered July 12, 2009.[3]
  • Mystery of the Hope Diamond - On August 19, 2009, the Smithsonian Institution announced that the Hope Diamond was to get a temporary new setting to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Harry Winston's donation of the gem stone to the National Museum of Natural History. Starting in September, the 45.52-carat (9.104 g) diamond would be exhibited as a stand-alone gem with no setting. From August 19, 2009 through September 7, 2009, the public was invited to vote online for their favorite Harry Winston designed setting, at The winning setting would be announced this fall and the gem would be shown in the setting starting in May, along with a Smithsonian Networks documentary.[4]
  • Soul of a People: Writing America's Story - A National Endowment for the Humanities-funded documentary about the Federal Writers' Project featuring interviews with notable project alumni Studs Terkel, Stetson Kennedy, and American historian Douglas Brinkley. Premiered September 6, 2009.
  • MLK: The Assassination Tapes produced by 1895 FILMS for Smithsonian Channel premiered on February 12, 2012 and received a Peabody Award.[5] The winner's citation for the Peabody Award describes the documentary as "[p]ainstakingly configured from rare footage collected at the University of Memphis in 1968...leading up to the murder of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and its aftermath."[6]
  • Terror in the Skies examines problems in commercial airline flights,[7][8][9]
  • Air Warriors is a series covering the F-15 Eagle, the V-22 Osprey, and the AH-64 Apache and the stories of the dedicated pilots and teams who fly and maintain these ultimate air warriors. It premiered on November 9, 2014.[10]
  • The Real Story goes behind the scenes of some of Hollywood's biggest movies and displays true stories that inspired some of Hollywood's most famous blockbusters. (Also known as The True Story in the United Kingdom.)[11]


Originally only offered in high definition, the Smithsonian Channel HD began airing on DirecTV's new HD lineup on September 26, 2007. Dish Network added the HD channel on May 12, 2008. Dish Network has since dropped the Smithsonian Channel HD from their programming line up effective February 1, 2009. In 2010, Smithsonian Networks entered into an agreement with Comcast for broadcast of the channel until 2020.

Smithsonian Networks is also available on Time Warner Cable, AT&T U-verse and Charter Communications in high definition and standard definition and on Verizon FiOS, Mediacom, and Century Link's Prism as part of their Premium and Preferred packages.

Besides Dish Network, Cox Communications is the only other major provider to not offer the channel.

In addition, full episodes and clips are available on devices such as the iPad, Android as well as streaming media devices such as Roku and Apple TV.[12][13][14]


In 2006 Carl Malamud of publishing and sharing non-profit Public.Resource.Org complained that private company Showtime and the publicly owned Smithsonian Institution were entering a contract to establish Smithsonian Networks without sufficient public disclosure.[15] Under the contract Showtime would be able to deny permission to other media producers wishing access to Smithsonian collections.[16] Documentarian Ken Burns said of this deal "I find this deal terrifying... It feels like the Smithsonian has essentially optioned America's attic to one company".[16]




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