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A+E Networks president and CEO Nancy Dubuc pledged more “creative risk-taking” and reminded media buyers gathered at the company’s annual upfront presentation Thursday night in New York that her stock-in-trade has always been “memorable” and “unique” content.
Dubuc was introduced by Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer, the stars of Lifetime’s upcoming drama series UnReal, the first scripted project from A+E Studios, which bows June 1. And Dubuc used the introduction to tout not just the show but also her in-house studio, a necessity at a time when licensing and international sales make up an increasing portion of networks’ profit pie.
“Content is everything we do,” said Dubuc from the stage of the Park Avenue Armory, noting that A+E Studios currently has more than 40 projects in various stages of production. Among those is a remake of the blockbuster 1970s miniseries Roots, which like the network’s Bonnie & Clyde update, will be simulcast on History, A&E and Lifetime. Original Roots star LeVar Burton, who is a co-exec producer on the remake, was in attendance.
“We aren’t afraid to take creative risks, which is the main ingredient in our recipe for change,” she added in what was perhaps an indirect acknowledgment of the ratings and financial contraction that has hit the big ad-supported cable networks including Dubuc’s History and A&E.
“We’ve started new genres,” she continued. “But the bar is always being raised. And we realize more than ever that good isn’t enough.”
Dubuc also talked up her networks’ multiplatform approach and ability to deliver a “diverse range of audiences” to advertisers. She did not mention the expected partnership with Vice on a branded channel set to take the place of H2, the History spin-off that is in 71 million homes, early next year. A+E and Vice are currently in negotiations with distributors and also are having conversations with media buyers. A Vice channel will presumably bring the highly sought after young male consumer into the A+E tent.
Dozens of the network’s starts and producers including Vera Farmiga, Katheryn Winnick and Travis Fimmel of Vikings, Susan Lucci, Pawn Stars‘ Harrison clan and Barbara Hershey mingled with Madison Ave. executives while Fall Out Boy was the night’s musical act.
Following are some of the upcoming projects on tap at A&E, History, Lifetime and FYI:
Damien – An updated version of the child from the 1976 horror classic with Bradley James in the title role. Also starring Barbara Hershey, Omid Abtahi and Meganlyn Echikunwoke.
Fit 2 Fat 2 Fit – Ten personal trainers stop exercising and spend four months eating what the average overweight American eats. Then they team up with overweight contestants to try to lose it.
What the Fung?! – Follows foodie comedians and brothers, Andrew and David Fung, as they travel across America in search of the best local spots to eat.
Married at First Sight: The First Year –This spin-off docu-series follows the two couples who remained married from season one.
Food Porn – Michael Chernow takes the food scene by storm with a nationwide hunt for the most popular #foodporn dishes.
Alone – The 10-episode series places 10 hardcore survivalists alone in the Vancouver Island wilderness — no camera crew, no teams, no producers — on a single mission to stay alive. At stake is $500,000 awarded to the person who can last the longest. Premieres this summer.
Boys of ’67 – Vietnam-set scripted series about the First Platoon of Charlie Company, 9th Infantry Division. In development by A+E Studios in association with Head First Productions and Muse Entertainment.
Sing It! – Follows two cross-town rival a cappella groups from New Jersey as they are given a chance to work with coaches Deke Sharon (Pitch Perfect) and Diana Preisler (SingStrong’s ACA-Idol), and face off in weekly competitions, leading to the final championship sing off.
Fall into Me – Lifetime’s first original scripted series for its digital platform will feature romantic drama stories for today’s modern and tech-savvy woman. Catering to the fast-growing romance-fiction marketplace, each series will take viewers on journeys full of passion and excitement that can be discreetly enjoyed on phones and tablets.
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