When I reviewed the season premiere of Ancient Aliens late Friday night, which is now S11E01 instead of S09E01 thanks to History renumbering the episodes from their original broadcast seasons for DVD release, I briefly noted that a commercial airing during the show advertised the upcoming Alien Con, a “next level entertainment experience” devoted to celebrating the ancient astronaut theory alongside science fiction and horror entertainment. As I mentioned at the time, the convention is a joint function of A+E Networks, the parent of the History Channel, and Cosmic Con, a division of Famous Monsters of Filmland, the horror and science fiction entertainment magazine. I was able to research some additional information about the convention, and it’s rather interesting what it reveals about how A+E Networks views its cash cow program.
According to a filing A+E Networks made with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, Alien Con is a registered trademark of A+E Networks, the sole owner of the name. They filed the trademark application on January 29 of this year. I wonder what Famous Monsters gets out of the deal if they don’t own the intellectual property behind the conference?
“Alien Con will be supported across all HISTORY® platforms, with [a] promotional campaign featuring sweepstakes, affiliate tie-ins, social media extensions and sponsorships,” a press release republished on Bleeding Cool and other websites stated.
What I found most interesting, though, is that in their trademark application A+E Networks accidentally revealed how little stock they put into the supposed historical basis of their own flagship property. Their trademark is meant to cover use of the name “Alien Con” for “arranging and conducting conferences and expositions in the field of science fiction and extraterrestrials.” Note the wording, approved by the company’s attorneys, that prioritizes science fiction above extraterrestrials, and which seems to view both as part of one field. While it is of course a fool’s errand to read too much into a legal document, it does seem to indicate that the powers that be see Ancient Aliens as a form of science-based entertainment, more or less indistinguishable from science fiction.
Compare this wording to how Prometheus Entertainment, the production company that produces Ancient Aliens, described the TV series in its April 2009 application to trademark the name Ancient Aliens for the pilot movie for the series: Back then it was said to cover “non-fiction documentary subject matter regarding historical landmarks, cultures, artifacts and phenomena and possible connections to the influence of visits to Earth by extraterrestrial life forms.” A+E Networks purchased the trademark to both the pilot movie and the TV series, and afterward they began brand extensions that all but abandoned the original rationale.
Why might that be? The answer probably comes to use form a January 29, 2016 filing in which A+E Networks revealed its plans to make Ancient Aliens into an explicitly science fiction brand. In a filing of that date, A+E asked for approval to use the Ancient Aliens name for a “series of fiction works, including novels and books.”
But that’s not all! In March, they filed an additional request to restrict the use of the Ancient Aliens name for the following list of products:
IC 021. US 002 013 023 029 030 033 040 050. G & S: Household and kitchen utensils and containers; china, namely, ornaments, decorative centerpieces, figures, plaques, and sculptures; cups and mugs; glassware, porcelain and earthenware for tabletops, namely, beverage ware, serving platters, mugs, jars, plaques, figures and decorative centerpieces; dishes, bowls, plates, mugs, drinking glasses, figurines of china, crystal, earthenware, glass, porcelain, terra cotta, plastic and stained glass; ice buckets
A filing does not require the applicant to manufacture all of these products, but I think you can see where they are heading with this. They see Ancient Aliens as a complete lifestyle brand. I am especially disturbed by the implication that they might create toys and “games for the teaching of children” aimed at impressionable youths. They have a separate trademark filing for computer and video games, so this doesn’t refer to the Ancient Aliens online game. If I had to guess, I would think they would probably make action figures based on various ancient gods, but not necessarily. Imagine your son or daughter playing with a genuine David Wilcock inaction figure: Thrill as he sits in one place and speculates madly! Engage in exciting adventures with your David Childress figurine as he stays motionless and stares into your soul!
For comparison’s sake, I reviewed some other History Channel properties whose names A+E Networks own to see if they received the same treatment. History’s Pawn Stars had some products trademarked in 2012, but this year they have only a line of keychains. American Pickers put in this spring for a line of glassware (probably shot glasses) and selected clothing items, specifically sweatshirts and jackets, but these were renewals of earlier efforts from 2012, which back then included a failed American Pickers video game. The Curse of Oak Island has no trademarked merchandise or events. A+E Networks did not bother to trademark the name Pirate Treasure of the Knights Templar, so feel free to use that one!
In short, A+E Networks treats Ancient Aliens very differently from History’s other shows in terms of aggressively merchandizing it and expanding its reach far beyond television. It’s hard not to see this in a cynical light,. The fact that they are not simply “giving the public what they want” on TV but are actively and aggressively evangelizing for an ancient astronaut theory they seem unable to distinguish from outright science fiction is disheartening and also more than a little disturbing.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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