The return of History Channel’s treasure-hunting reality show “Curse of Oak Island” for an 11th season has viewers flocking to the network in numbers that rival the most popular cable news programs and Hallmark’s slate of holiday movies, the latest in a line of successes for a show that has sparked nearly a dozen spinoffs, books and video games.
The season premiere of “Curse of Oak Island” on Nov. 7 was watched by 2 million people on cable news, and the audience has only grown since, Nielsen data shows.
The 11th season’s third episode, which aired Nov. 21, was the most-watched of the season so far and broke into the top 10 most-watched cable programs of the week with 2.4 million viewers, making it the most popular cable show on television for the day by a margin of almost 400,000 people—the only cable shows that out-rated it the week of Nov. 20 were Fox News programs, NFL and college football games and a Hallmark holiday movie.
So far this season, episodes have out-rated programs like the Ole Miss v. Mississippi college football game, the Celtics v. Bucks NBA matchup and the return of Randy Orton to “WWE Raw” on USA Network.
The return of “Curse of Oak Island” pulled the History Channel from the 18th most-watched cable network in total day viewers to the eighth—the most recent Nielsen data shows an average of 328,000 viewers for History last week, up from 249,000 in the week before the 11th season premiere.
In the week of Nov. 27 to Dec. 3, the most recent Nielsen data available, the show was the 13th most-watched on cable with 2.3 million viewers—the only programs that out-rated “Oak Island” were Fox News shows and “Monday Night Football” on ESPN.
Parrot Analytics, a content analytics company, said audience demand for “The Curse of Oak Island” — determined by the amount of streams, downloads, audience activity on social media and online searches — was 12.8 times higher than the audience demand for the average American show this fall, a level seen by only 2.7% of all TV shows.
The show’s popularity isn’t new—a previous season finale in 2017 drew 3.8 million viewers, and the series has inspired three spin-off shows, a series of deep-dive episodes, a puzzle game in development from Visionaire Studio.
11%. Audience demand for “The Curse of Oak Island” increased by 11% during October, according to Parrot Analytics, ahead of the premiere of season 11.
“The Curse of Oak Island” first premiered in 2014 and follows a team of hunters led by brothers Marty and Rick Lagina in pursuit of a centuries-old treasure on Oak Island in Nova Scotia. Legend has told of priceless cultural treasures like the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant being buried on the island, though no significant treasure has ever been found. Early explorers first sought the secrets of the island centuries ago, and lore surrounding the “money pit“—a man-made shaft said to have been re-discovered by teenagers in the late 1700s—is the focus of much modern-day exploration. The shaft’s exact location has been obscured by hundreds of years of expedition and natural changes, but the Lagina brothers have focused much of their excavating efforts on finding it, though they’ve been stymied by apparent booby traps and centuries-old attempts to prevent discovery. Theories on whose treasure is stashed away on the island range from the pirate Blackbeard to Templars, Masons, Incas and Revolutionary War soldiers. The long hunt for treasure on Oak Island is also the topic of a book by journalist and author Randall Sullivan.
“It’s the world’s longest running treasure hunt,” Rick Lagina said on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” in 2017.
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For the past seven years, the History Channel’s ‘Curse of Oak Island’ has been a hit with viewers, drawing millions of viewers to the channel. Described as an ‘action-packed docu-drama’, the series chronicles the painstaking thirty-five-year endeavour of brothers Rick and Marty Lagina to find the secrets and treasures supposedly hidden on the small, mysterious island known as Oak Island, located off the coast of Nova Scotia in the Canadian Maritimes.
In addition to the quest for historical artifacts, ‘Curse of Oak Island’ revolves around the exploration of the island for phenomena such as sinkholes, underground tunnels, and caves, believed to contain hidden treasure. Many believe that pirate Captain Kidd may have buried some of his riches on the island. It has even been suggested that the Holy Grail, the lost Ark of the Covenant, Shakespeare’s lost manuscripts, and lost Aztec and Incan treasures could also be on the island.
Over the course of the show’s seven season run, the Lagina brothers – assisted by an expert team of researchers, engineers, and scientists – have made some remarkable discoveries, such as evidence of an apparent pre-Columbian complex, intriguing symbols that have yet to be deciphered, and unidentified objects made of gold. However, despite the Lagina brothers’ and viewers’ excitement at the prospect of uncovering a great buried treasure, the elusive treasure has remained just that: elusive. This has helped to add to the show’s appeal to viewers.
For all its suspense and drama, ‘Curse of Oak Island’ has also served to provide viewers with a valuable look at history. In addition to showcasing the spectacular landscape and culture of the islands of Nova Scotia, the show has popularized a variety of topics in history, such as the story of the Knights Templar, the cryptic Shakespearean play, Macbeth, and the mystery of Marie Antoinette’s lost jewels.
The show has also served to shine light on lesser-known chapters in history, such as the possibility that the island was visited by Francis Bacon and the unsolved terribly tragic mystery of the ‘Money Pit’.
‘Curse of Oak Island’ has become a hit phenomenon for the History Channel. With its unique combination of history, suspense, and mystery, the series has garnered a devoted fan base that keeps coming back for more. It’s something that anyone can enjoy, regardless of their knowledge of history.