Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Demise of not?

Megan Smolenyak Smolenytak announced that the Roots Television website, at, would be leaving the digital universe on 10 March. The announcement is at It says:

"Dear Viewer,

"It's with mixed feelings that I'm sharing the news that I will be closing (RTV) as of March 10th. Back in 2006, RTV was launched to fill a void. As I wrote at the time:

'We've been perplexed for a long time. These days, there's a horse channel, a wine channel, a sailing channel, a poker channel, a guitar channel, and even a shipwreck channel. So why, we wondered, isn't there a channel servicing the millions of people interested in genealogy and family history?'

"The good news is that this yawning gap is now being filled. Genealogy is finally going mainstream. Some of you are probably already watching Faces of America on PBS and The Generations Project on BYU. And many, I'm sure, have heard of the imminent launch on NBC of Who Do You Think You Are? (a series I'm proud to be affiliated with, and for which, I wrote the companion book). The non-genealogical world is finally waking up to the long overlooked potential of what we roots-sleuths do on a daily basis, as you can read in this article: Roots TV Becomes New Branch of Reality TV

"I'm honored to have had the opportunity to fill this void for more than three years. I hope that you have enjoyed the hundreds of high quality videos that has produced or selected. From the viewing numbers and kind comments, I know that many of you have. It's been a privilege to give the genealogical community this resource, but this seems the appropriate time to move on. Thank you for your viewership and friendship. Og and I will miss you!

Megan Smolenyak2


"P.S. If any genealogical entities would be interested in "adopting", I would be open to that possibility, but would need to hear from you immediately ( "

I've been really sad ever since I read this about 30 minutes ago. Roots Television was one of those really wonderful sites that expanded my genealogy education and introduced me, through interviews, to many of the brightest and best people in the genealogy world.

My first hope is that some really smart genealogy company will step up and save this wonderful collection of genealogy videos and use them to further the genealogy education of millions of genealogists to come in future years.

My second hope is that the owners of the videos will create some CDs or DVDs with selections from the video collection - a beginning genealogy series, an interview series, an Annie Moore series, etc. might be attractive for genealogists at conferences and by mail order. A video collection could serve as genealogy education classes or as programs for genealogical societies struggling to find speakers.

I don't totally agree with Megan's statement that genealogy is going mainstream. For several weeks in the winter and spring of 2010, this is true. However, my guess is that the audience for "Faces of America" has not been large opposite the Winter Olympics, and Friday night on network TV is not a wonderful time slot for WDYTYA?, which is basically a substitute program for another failed prime-time show on NBC following the Winter Olympics. The one episode of The Simpsons may have had more viewers than all of the "Faces of America" episodes combined. What's next? Will WDYTYA? continue on NBC? We can only hope so.

Thank you to Megan Smolenyak and Marcy Brown, and many others like Dick Eastman who did many of the interviews, for the enjoyable hours of genealogy television when there wasn't any.

Why did Roots Television fail? I don't know for sure. However, with the ability to create "do it yourself" videos and post them on YouTube and other free video channels, genealogy videos are more easily made than the Roots Television videos with heavy video equipment and the costs associated with travel, shooting =, editing and posting the videos. However, the quality of Roots Television videos were excellent, the quality of YouTube genealogy videos is not as good.

The costs associated with the Roots Television business model must have outweighed the benefits to the owners of the service. While Roots Television had some commercial sponsors on the website, it's likely that the income never exceeded the expenses. No business can survive without a profitable bottom line for very long.

Lastly, I'm really bummed that I never got to meet Og! What will happen to him? Back in the genealogy cave?


Becky Thompson said...

Thank you for posting your thoughts about this, Randy. I agree with you. We can't say YET that genealogy is going mainstream. Not at all. I was one of the original fans of RootsTelevision I think. Way before Facebook and blogging I was encouraging others to check it out and enjoying it myself. I'll really miss it and also hope someone will pick it up.

Tamura Jones said...


> "Why did Roots Television fail? I don't know for sure."

You are assuming it failed. Megan does not state it failed.
She says she is pulling the plug, but does not state any particular reason for doing so.

She claims genealogy is going mainstream, but if shows like WDYTYA make genealogy mainstream, then genealogy was mainstream many years before RootsTV started.

Moreover, as I was quick to tweet, there is no word about an archive.
Megan has not replied to that observation yet.

- Tamura