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Nancy Dubuc’s ascent up the corporate ladder continues.
Roughly a half a year after being upped to president of entertainment and media at A+E Networks, she’s being promoted again. This time, Dubuc will become president and CEO, a position in which she’ll have even greater oversight of the suite of networks, which include History, Lifetime and A&E. As part of the restructuring, current CEO Abbe Raven, to whom Dubuc has been fiercely loyal despite courtship from rival networks, will become chairman of the New York-based television company.
In September, Dubuc, who often is described as “bold” and “fearless” by peers and rivals alike, was granted control over all content creation, brand development and marketing for the A+E Networks’ larger portfolio as well as oversight of the international and digital divisions. That promotion, which put Dubuc in charge of some 500 employees and about $3.5 billion in annual revenue, came just months after AETN was valued at about $20 billion.
In her new role, Dubuc will oversee day-to-day operations of the company, while Raven spearheads the company’s long-term business and revenue opportunities as well as public-policy initiatives. The new positions, which will have Raven reporting directly to the board of directors led by Disney/ABC Television Group president Anne Sweeney and Hearst Corp. president Steven Swartz and Dubuc reporting jointly to Raven and the board, are effective June 1.
STORY: A&E’s Nancy Dubuc on Liz & Dick: ‘I’d Do It Again’
Since joining the company more than 10 years earlier as director of historical programming at the History channel, Dubuc’s rise has been nothing short of meteoric. She was named head of History in 2007, successfully overseeing the network’s transformation from a destination for musty historical documentaries to an unscripted powerhouse with such top shows as Ice Road Truckers, Ax Men and Pawn Stars. In six years, she took History from No. 11 to No. 4.
“I’m not a very patient person,” she said during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter as part of a December cover story, acknowledging a reputation for being particularly decisive and often outspoken. “I’ll take those quick risks to see if it’s going to work versus taking the long and tortuous road of trying to guarantee myself that something will work. That’s like self-mutilation to me. Either it will or it won’t, and I’m not afraid to say I made the wrong call.”
Proof: Dubuc ushered History into scripted programming with last spring’s Hatfields & McCoys, which proved the right call. The blockbuster miniseries averaged more than 13 million viewers each night and notched the top-three most-watched entertainment telecasts in ad-supported cable history. Months later, 16 Emmy nominations — and five wins — followed, ultimately changing the industry’s perception of History. She since has followed up with the period drama series Vikings and the Mark Burnett-produced miniseries The Bible, which delivered record-setting ratings for the cable network. (“It doesn’t make any sense for us to do a scripted series if it’s not going to be big, so we have to be really disciplined about them,” she has said of programming that can cost four to five times more than unscripted fare.)
In spring 2010, Dubuc added Lifetime to her portfolio and set about giving the network best known for women-in-peril movies a Hollywood makeover. She lured A-list stars (Jennifer Aniston, Demi Moore, Queen Latifah), infused more contemporary storylines and rebranded the network with a new tagline, “Your Life. Your Time.” While the ratings resurgence has not been nearly as impressive at Lifetime as it has been at History, the femme-focused network still managed to round out the year up 4 percent and 15 percent among total viewers and women 18-to-49, respectively, thanks to such series as The Client List, Dance Moms and Army Wives.
STORY: History, Lifetime Chief Nancy Dubuc Elevated at AETN
Her more recent addition, A&E, has enjoyed record ratings with red-hot unscripted entry Duck Dynasty and the type of critical praise it has long desired with scripted effort Bates Motel. Hot off a second-season renewal for the latter, the network ordered another scripted effort, Those Who Kill, starring Chloe Sevigny and James D’Arcy.
“I am delighted that our next president and CEO has been chosen from within our own ranks once again,” noted Raven in a statement announcing the news Monday. “A+E Networks’ culture has always been about rewarding success and encouraging innovation. Nancy is one of the most talented executives working in media today — a decisive leader, with her hallmark drive and determination. I am so proud of what Nancy, the management team and employees have accomplished, and I know they will take A+E Networks to new heights.”
For her part, Raven joined the cable company some 30 years ago and has played an integral role in transforming A&E Nets into a behemoth that now boasts 10 domestic channels — two (A&E and History) consistently rate among cable’s top five entertainment networks — and a suite of international channels that reaches more than 300 million households in 150 countries. Raven, a former high school teacher (English and drama) who clocked in at No. 4 on THR’s Most Powerful Women in Entertainment list in late 2012, was upped to president and CEO in 2005.
Email: Lacey.Rose@THR.com; Twitter: @LaceyVRose
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