Yesterday, A+E Networks once again eschewed an in-person Upfront presentation for a high-impact, blessedly brief virtual showcase running less than a half-hour.
The Big Message: Whatever service advertisers spend on -- A&E, The HISTORY Channel or Lifetime -- they'll be involved in a programming lineup with a more diverse variety of top talent as stars, hosts and, in many cases, executive producers off-camera. We're talking the likes of Morgan Freeman, Mary J. Blige and Kevin Costner. At the same time, all three channels will double down on what they do best: biography and pop culture content at A&E, made-for-TV movies and unscripted series from Lifetime and documentary series and hybrid scripted/unscripted miniseries at The HISTORY Channel. "It's about imagining what is possible," asserted Paul Buccieri, President and Chairman of A+E Networks Group. "We want to create possibilities for you and your brands."
Hosts: Buccieri, joined by A+E Networks Ad Sales President Peter Olsen (pictured at top).
What Worked: A snazzy well-paced presentation that emphasized the range of talent involved and featured plenty of clip montages from upcoming programs. Video walls behind Buccieri and Olsen featured talent head shots. Individual vignettes highlighted talent discussing their new series or production creativity. And for the first time, A&E went beyond promotion of its various channels to show off the work of its A+E Studios unit, whose growing output for other enterprises includes The Lincoln Lawyer at Netflix, Big Sky on ABC and Big RV Remix for Hulu.
What Also Worked: An expanded showcase for Home.Made.Nation, graduating from a multi-hour daypart on several A+E nets to its own 24/7 channel, distributed via cable systems, smart TV sets/devices and multichannel bundles. Some celebrity power is headed for this lifestyle destination, including a pair of series from Rachael Ray (through her new production company) and three from cake master Buddy Valastro.
What Didn't Work: A relative lack of details on 4UV (For Diverse Voices), A+E's ambitious new network touted at last year's virtual event. The service, featuring original scripted and unscripted content assembled by people of color and people from other underrepresented communities, postponed its scheduled debut last fall, and this presentation, while confirming its existence again, didn't offer a new launch timetable or elaborate on what's coming content-wise, with one exception -- Ancient Recipes with Sohla. Also missing in action: news of forthcoming original attractions at Vice TV, LMN and fyi.
Data Points: More than 2,500 hours of content will be generated by A+E Networks during 2023-24 -- the most ever for a TV season, according to Buccieri. A+E also will expand the number of free ad-supported nets distributed through smart TV products and multichannel bundles, now at 20.
News: At HISTORY Channel, Morgan Freeman will narrate and executive produce Black Patriots: The 761 Battalion, about the first African American tank unit to encounter combat in World War II. Hybrid scripted/unscripted miniseries ahead include Costner's The West and FDR, a three-night Memorial Day presentation co-executive produced by Bradley Cooper. Separately, the network will launchAmerica 250, a multi-year project celebrating the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence's formation in 2026. A&E's forthcoming series include Kings of BBQ, detailing a new business co-owned by Anthony Anderson and Cedric the Entertainer; a set of Biography specials on hard rock legends, and miniseries James Brown: Say It Loud. New Lifetime made-for-TV movies will feature a Keyshia Cole biopic and Real Love, adapted and inspired by Mary J. Blige's hit song. Lifetime will partner with A&E on simulcasts for specials involving Janet Jackson and pop group TLC. Among the new series coming to Home.Made.Nation: Legends of the Fork (one of Valastro's three series), 1000 Ways to Dine and Best In Chow.
"Choice is at an all-time high for viewers. How they access content and when and where they watch it. We're leading the way to build out the FAST (free ad-supported TV) ecosystem." -- Peter Olsen, A+E Networks Ad Sales President
"The fastest growing and freshest take on lifestyle content." -- A+E Networks Group President and Chairman Paul Buccieri on Home.Made.Nation
"This is a story I've been waiting to tell for 25 years." -- Award-winning actor/producer Morgan Freeman discussing his Black Patriots project for The HISTORY Channel
"I'm excited. Can you feel it?" -- Dan Aykroyd, about his forthcoming HISTORY Channel series The Unbelievable
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