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Still riding high after this morning’s announcement that she’s been upped to president of E!, Suzanne Kolb joined her boss, NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment and Studios chairman Bonnie Hammer, in a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter about the network’s next steps, a new scripted hire and the future of the Kardashian franchise.
The Hollywood Reporter: In this morning’s announcement, you said, “We’re just getting started.” So what’s next?
Suzanne Kolb: We’re getting started with where we believe we can take the brand, where we should take the brand and how we’re going to go about doing that. The nice thing is the network is doing well at the moment, so we have the luxury to let that continue while we conduct the brand audit to figure out where we are today and where the opportunities are for the future. It’s about putting together that long-term plan and then figuring out what that looks like in terms of marketing and programming.
THR: What would you like the network to add that isn’t a part of it already?
Kolb: Part of it is about figuring out what the voice, the mood and the type of content that we want to have on the air is. I don’t know that it’s so much about “we want this” or “we want that,” as much as it is really figuring out what the heart of the brand is going to be. As you know, we’d like to see scripted come to the air, so that genre will find its way to the network. But in exactly what form that takes and what that content is will really depend on where we think we’re going from a tone, voice and overall brand perspective.
THR: Do you foresee going darker in tone? Lighter? More serious?
Kolb: That’s what we have to figure out. We don’t have a situation of something being broken; we have a situation of potential not being realized. So the point that we’re at right now in the brand audit is the aggressive research phase. I can’t tell which way its going to go right now; I personally think there are some core attributes of the brand that I’d be surprised if we didn’t continue, but I don’t really want to predict what we’re going to learn or see at this point.
Bonnie Hammer: I look at it the way I did with USA. Seven and a half years ago, USA was in a similar place – it was doing well, it was making money, the ratings were good, but it was kind of at a place where it really needed to not reinvent itself but evolve into the best of what it could be. We went through a very similar process and we came up with our focus, which were characters. We made sure everything that we did had a singular voice, targeting a very specific though broad audience. In a way, we took a huge entertainment entity and focused it by creating a filter. E! is at that place where it’s had a lot of success but it needs to evolve to that next level so that there’s a singularity of what it looks like, feels like and speaks to so that everybody inside and out refers to it in the same way.
THR: The Kardashian franchise is very closely associated with the E! brand. Do you foresee continuing with that franchise and others like it?
Kolb: The Kardashians have had an amazing impact on the network, and I wouldn’t imagine them anywhere other than on E! and I’d love to see them stay on E!. I think what we need to do is figure out ways to add more entertainment product around the Kardashians that continues to push us forward beyond just the Kardashians. But they’re an amazing part of the brand and I have every intention for them to continue being part of the brand.
THR: In our Ryan Seacrest profile, he joked that as soon as the two younger sisters become legal, he’ll try to get them a show as well …
Kolb: There’s no shortage of Kardashians. Although technically the two younger ones are Jenners. [Laughs]
THR: On the scripted side, how quickly do you foresee bringing in a scripted executive?
Kolb: That’s Lisa [Berger’s] world in terms original programming and I think conversations have already been had with a number of potential executives. So yes, there will be a scripted head coming to E! in the not so distant future. And we’re hoping it will be somebody with a good deal of experience and the right voice.
THR: Once today’s celebration is over, what will you tackle first?
Kolb: Everyone has been waiting to figure out this piece of it, and now it’s set and the management team can come back together. I already know everyone, so all joking aside it really is easy. But the brand audit is the biggest overall project, but then there are some responsibilities internally. I have to figure out whose going to do what and who is going to replace me. But, really, its’ good time to be E! and it will be an even better time to be E! a year from now.
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