Smithsonian Channel

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Smithsonian Channel
Smithsonian Channel current logo.png
CountryUnited States
Broadcast areaUnited States
Latin America
United Kingdom
Republic of Ireland
SloganIt's brighter here
HeadquartersWashington, DC
Picture format1080i HDTV
(downscaled to letterboxed 480i for the SDTV feed)
OwnerViacomCBS Domestic Media Networks
Sister channels
LaunchedSeptember 26, 2007
(United Kingdom)
Channel 57 (SD)
Available on most cable systemsChannel slots may vary
Verizon FiOSChannel 634 (HD)
SpectrumChannel 370 (HD)
Virgin Media
(United Kingdom and Ireland)
Channel 295 (HD)
myTV Super
(Hong Kong)
Channel 407
DirecTVChannel 570 (HD)
Dish NetworkChannel 367 (SD/HD)
Sky UK and Sky IrelandChannel 171 (HD)
Channel 175 (SD/HD)
Astra 2G
11264 V 27500 2/3 (SD)
11509 V 23000 2/3 (HD)
Channel 226
StarHub TV
Channel 415 (HD)
Channel 400 (VOD)
Streaming media
YouTube TV, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV

The Smithsonian Channel is an American pay television channel owned by ViacomCBS through its domestic media networks division.[1] It offers video content inspired by the Smithsonian Institution's museums, research facilities and magazines.

The channel features original non-fiction programming that covers a wide range of historical, scientific and cultural subjects. As of February 2015, approximately 33.6 million American households (28.9% of those with television) receive Smithsonian Channel.[2] It is also available as a video on demand service, depending on the service provider, and in various Internet streaming and download formats.[3]

The channel was launched as a joint venture of Showtime Networks and the Smithsonian Institution as Smithsonian On Demand in 2006, and later became Smithsonian Channel in 2007.[4] Smithsonian Channel Plus, a US$5 monthly subscription also offering access to the channel's past content library, and incorporating the former Smithsonian Earth streaming service, was launched in 2018, however, since ViacomCBS' expansion of CBS All Access containing all of the service's content, it can be deemed as deprecated. It is available on several device platforms, and via the web.[5]

As of 2020, Smithsonian Channel: UK & Ireland broadcasts free-to-air, available on Freeview digital terrestrial television channel 57, as well as on cable and satellite broadcasts.[6]


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.[7] Related shows are Sky View, featuring areas in western Europe;[8] Aerial Ireland;[9] Aerial New Zealand;[10] Aerial Africa;[11] Aerial Britain;[12] China From Above;[13] and Aerial Cities, featuring selected American cities.[14]
  • Soul Revolution hosted by Morgan Freeman premiered November 16, 2008.
  • Season two of Stories from the Vaults starring Tom Cavanagh premiered July 12, 2009.[15]
  • 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[when?] and the gem would be shown in the setting starting in May, along with a Smithsonian Networks documentary.[16]
  • 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.[17] 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."[18]
  • Terror in the Skies examines problems in commercial airline flights,[19][20][21]
  • 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.[22]
  • 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.)[23]

Smithsonian Channel's programming library is currently distributed by ViacomCBS Global Distribution Group.


Originally only offered in high definition, the Smithsonian Channel HD began airing on DirecTV's new HD lineup on September 26, 2007. Dish Network had originally added the HD channel on May 12, 2008, until February 1, 2009, when Dish dropped it. Then on December 11, 2015, Dish began to offer the channel again.[24] In 2010, Smithsonian Networks entered into an agreement with Comcast for broadcast of the channel until 2020.

Smithsonian Networks is also available on Charter Communications in high definition and standard definition and on Verizon FiOS, Mediacom, and CenturyLink's Prism as part of their Premium and Preferred packages.

Since 2015, Cox Communications added the channel on at least a few of their systems.

Since 2016, the channel was launched in Singapore on Starhub TV. It started broadcasting in Indonesia on Vidio App, Nexmedia and First Media in 2019.

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.[25][26][27]

In December 2018, HD test transmissions for the Smithsonian Channel were broadcast on the Astra 2G satellite used by the UK's Sky platform.[28] The channel launched on 12 February 2019 on all major UK platforms.[29]

On July 20, 2019, DirecTV and AT&T U-verse removed it from their lineup due to a carriage dispute.[30]


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.[31] Under the contract Showtime would be able to deny permission to other media producers wishing access to Smithsonian collections.[32] 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".[32]




  1. ^ "Smithsonian sells its stake in... the Smithsonian Channel". 2019-11-08. Retrieved 2020-07-31.
  2. ^ Seidman, Robert (February 22, 2015). "List of how many homes each cable network is in as of February 2015". TV by the Numbers. Zap2it. Archived from the original on February 23, 2015. Retrieved March 14, 2015.
  3. ^ "Smithsonian Channel: FAQ". Smithsonian Channel. Retrieved 2019-06-08.
  4. ^ "Smithsonian Channel Records · SOVA". Retrieved 2019-06-08.
  5. ^ Ellingson, Annlee. "Smithsonian launches new subscription streaming service". L.A. Biz. Retrieved 2019-06-09.
  6. ^ "Smithsonian Channel: UK & Ireland". Retrieved 2020-07-12.
  7. ^ "Aerial America". Smithsonian Channel. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  8. ^ "Smithsonian Channel – Sky View". Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  9. ^ "Aerial Ireland". Smithsonian Channel. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  10. ^ "Aerial New Zealand". Smithsonian Channel. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  11. ^ "Aerial Africa". Smithsonian Channel. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  12. ^ "Aerial Britain". Smithsonian Channel. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  13. ^ "China From Above". Smithsonian Channel. Retrieved April 29, 2020.
  14. ^ "Aerial Cities". Smithsonian Channel. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  15. ^ Tom Cavanagh Is the Inside Man for the 'Vaults' Job, July 12, 2009
  16. ^ Hope Diamond to get new setting for Anniversary, August 19, 2009 Archived August 30, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ 72nd Annual Peabody Awards, May 2013.
  18. ^ MLK: The Assassination Tapes (Smithsonian Channel), November 26, 2013.
  19. ^ Arrow Media, Humans at Helm: Is Any Flight Safe?, Neil Genzlinger, New York Times, September 27, 2013
  20. ^ The Futon Critic, Smithsonian Channel(TM) to Premiere "Terror in the Skies" Sunday, September 29 at 8PM ET/PT, September 16, 2013
  21. ^ National Geographic Channel – International, Terror in the Skies
  22. ^ "Air Warriors". Smithsonian Channel. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  23. ^ "The Real Story". Smithsonian Channel. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  24. ^ "Dish Network adds Smithsonian Channel in High Definition". Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  25. ^ "Ways to Watch Smithsonian Channel". Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  26. ^ Roku. "Roku". Roku. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  27. ^ "Apple TV Adds Apps for Vevo, Weather Channel, Disney, and Smithsonian Channel". Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  28. ^ Astra 2G at 28.2°E Lyngsat. Accessed January 2, 2019
  29. ^ Sherwin, Adam (8 February 2019). "Smithsonian Channel to take on BBC4 with 'fact-checked' shows for UK viewers". The i. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
  30. ^ CBS channels get blackout on DirecTV and other AT&T services CNET, July 24, 2019
  31. ^ O'Reilly, Tim (5 April 2006). "Smithsonian Sunshine – O'Reilly Radar". Retrieved 20 October 2013.
  32. ^ a b Wyatt, Edward (1 April 2006). "Smithsonian Agreement Angers Filmmakers". The New York Times. New York: NYTC. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 20 October 2013.

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