After its successful series on the history of America in 2010, television's History channel is setting its sights even higher.
The network said Tuesday that a 12-hour miniseries, "Mankind the Story of All of Us," will debut late this year. History, seen in more than 300 million homes worldwide, will offer different versions of the series in different parts of the world, the first time it has ever done that.
"America the Story of Us" hadn't even concluded when History executives, impressed by its ratings, began talking about what to do next, said Nancy Dubuc, the network's president and general manager.
"Rather than take a slice of the America story and do something more in depth on that, we decided to go bigger and broader," she said.
The "America" miniseries was the most-watched special ever on History, with 5.7 million people watching the first episode and nearly 40 million people in total watching some part of it, the Nielsen ratings company said.
The new series starts with the Big Bang and traces the development of humans on a planet where the vast majority of species go extinct, said Jane Root, the project's executive producer.
Root described it as a "real action-adventure" project, one that encompasses astronomy, geology and other sciences along with history. It will make liberal use of computer-generated recreations in its storytelling, she said.
The series traces the development of tools and the construction of the pyramids. Root said the production tries to make viewers aware of what it felt like, for instance, to set sail for distant lands on a ship when the common belief was the world was flat.
Root said she was surprised to discover the amount of connections among cultures in ancient times, like when Vikings visited China and fought with people in what is now Canada, each before the time of Christopher Columbus.
"We all grow up in a place where we learn just our history," she said. "You grow up in America, you learn American history. You grow up in France, you learn French history. To try to bring it all together and yet still make it a real exciting story of how humans made it is a real challenge."
History will offer companion material to schools interested in the project, although Root said it was "very important to us that this wasn't an educational mission. This is something you're going to watch like the best of a Hollywood superhero movie."
About a third of History's audience is in the United States. Worldwide, History is available in 150 countries, with India the biggest market, and in some 35 languages. Dubuc said the project would be localized in several markets with the inclusion of interviews with local historians.
Airdates have not been set for the series, which will stretch over six days, but it will be within the last three months of 2012, the network said.
The History channel is owned by A&E Television Networks.