Smithsonian Channel

Last updated
Smithsonian Channel
Smithsonian Channel current logo.png
CountryUnited States
Broadcast area North America, Latin America, UK, Ireland,Africa
Picture format 1080i HDTV
(downscaled to letterboxed 480i for the SDTV feed)
OwnerMTV Entertainment Group
(ViacomCBS Domestic Media Networks)
Sister channels
LaunchedSeptember 26, 2007
Available on most cable systemsChannel slots may vary
Verizon FiOS Channel 634 (HD)
DirecTV Channel 570 (HD)
Dish Network Channel 367 (SD/HD)
Zuku TV (Kenya)Channel 411
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 under MTV Entertainment Group. [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 televisions) 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. As of the fall of 2020, it was merged into CBS All Access (later renamed Paramount+). [5]

In February 2019, Smithsonian Channel: UK & Ireland launched on their domestic cable and satellite providers, along with Freeview.


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.

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. [26] In 2010, Smithsonian Networks entered into an agreement with Comcast for broadcast of the channel on its Xfinity service until 2020.[ needs update ]

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. [27] [28] [29]

In December 2018, HD test transmissions for the Smithsonian Channel were broadcast on the Astra 2G satellite used by the UK's Sky platform. [30] The channel launched on 12 February 2019 on all major UK platforms. [31]

On July 20, 2019, DirecTV and AT&T U-verse removed it from their lineup due to a carriage dispute. [32] Carriage was restored on August 8, 2019. [33]


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. [34] Under the contract, Showtime would be able to deny permission to other media producers wishing access to Smithsonian collections. [35] 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". [35]

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