Inside UP: Programming Intern Interviews Network Programming Chief

By UPtv / Aspire InSites Archives
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Amy Winter, Executive Vice President and General Manager of UPtv, walks the brand's walk: not only is she committed to "uplifting" its audiences per its tagline, but she practices what she preaches to elevate those around her, as well.  That includes any opportunity to "uplift" an aspiring programmer by way of sharing insights around her role in developing such groundbreaking reality series as Our Wedding Story and Expecting.  So, MediaVillage and the International Radio and Television Society identified 2019 Fellow, Jorden Ashley Albright (pictured at top, right), currently interning at ABC7NY Eyewitness News, to conduct this interview as part journalism assignment, part informational interview.  Albright, a recent University of Tennessee graduate with a degree in journalism and broadcast media, has some things in common with Winter (top left) -- they're both Discovery Networks alums (Albright as an editing intern then contractor, Winter as Executive Vice President and General Manager of TLC some years back); and both share a passion for feel-good programming that entertains.  They met for the first time for this conversation.

Jorden Albright:  I want to talk about UPtv a bit, becauseuplifting realitywas a new concept for me.  Usually when you think of reality television, it's built around a lot of negative drama.

Amy Winter: We're purpose-driven at UP, and want to be able to put great entertainment out there for the type of folks seeking out content they feel good about watching, sharing with members of their family and bringing into their home.  Does it make you feel good?  Is it time well spent?  Does it leave the viewer -- or the people participating in our shows -- in a better place than when they started with it? 

Albright:  I watchedOur Wedding Story[Season 2 premieres July 11, along withCrazy Beautiful Weddings] andExpectingand they did put me in a better place.  Expecting has a really unique storytelling concept that allows families to use their own voices in the narrative. In this age of personal content creation, do you think that giving some creative control to the people involved is the future of reality TV?

Winter:  Traditionally, when somebody's doing a show like Expecting, a camera crew might drop in four times over the course of the journey.  In reality -- real reality -- when people are deciding, "Hey, I might want to become a parent," they have no idea how long that might take.  Couples are filming all the emotions and highs and lows they go through as they wonder if they may be pregnant, take a pregnancy test and share the news with their family and friends.  By using the family's own footage we have access to all of this.  Plus, the people who are shooting it are in love with the people they're filming.  So, the interaction between the people on screen and the camera is completely unique.

Albright:  Can you share any details about locations and events that are going to be coming up in Season 2 of Our Wedding Story?

Winter:  Whether it's the Berkshires or the Caribbean, every location we travel to has a jaw-dropping venue and a couple you'll fall in love with.  There's one early episode in Texas about a military couple getting married before he deploys.  We also have a beautiful beach location with Sandals Resorts which partnered with us to find a couple from one of their destination weddings.

Albright:  What's your typical day-to-day involvement with production?

Winter:  My daytime is more around meetings and making sure that all the different departments have what they need from me to continue to move forward.  My nighttime and lunch time are more focused on watching cuts, reading scripts or reviewing pitches so that I can get my notes back in a timely manner.

Albright:  My boyfriend is a production assistant on Bringing Up Bates, so I always hear about it.  He was telling me that there have been weddings and people moving away and starting businesses, and I was wondering what that's going to mean for the Bates family.

Winter:  That's such a coincidence!  Well, yes, the life events -- life's biggest moments -- happen all the time, so it's a constant state of being in production.  People do get married.  They do move away.  But the interesting thing is, the pull of family brings them right on back and pulls viewers in, too. 

Albright:  Can you share how you got started in programming?

Winter:  I'd been in marketing for years, working on the TLC brand.  So, when I walked into my first green-light meeting, my evaluation process was different than a lot of the experts I had in the room.  I would look at it and go, "Do I think a viewer would be interested in this?  Can I get the message across about this show very quickly?"  Marketing really trains you to look for the kernel that's going to make other people curious.  That really helped me on the front end of coming in and making decisions about programming.

Albright:  Do you have any advice for people like me who are just breaking into the business?

Winter:  Don't be afraid to make lateral moves -- and to be curious and open and try new things.  The more you've experienced, the better you'll be able to manage when you're in a leadership role.  As my career has grown and my role and responsibilities have changed, I've had to shift from being the person who always comes up with the idea or the solution, to having my team take ownership of those solutions and ideas and seeing them do that is the best part of my job.  Years ago, when we acquired Gilmore GirlsI threw out to the team, "How do we own this better than anybody?"  And our programming and marketing teams came up with Gilmore the Merrier, which is basically our Shark Week.  We trend on Twitter every year, there are contests, there is cast involvement.  It's just a delight when they take a challenge and ratchet it up in a way that I never even expected.

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