Following its highly successful 2020 Q4 Christmas programming slate, UPtv is continuing its promise of delivering uplifting entertainment through relatable stories of love and laughter with "Love Sundays," a new Sunday-night programming franchise featuring romantic premiere movies. The network will have 11 premiere movies in Q1 alone.
"We set a really good foundation," said Hector Campos, vice president, content strategy and programming at UPtv in an exclusive interview with MediaVillage. "We've always seen Q1 as a great opportunity to leverage our Christmas movie audience to come back after the holiday season. With the launch of 'Love Sundays' last month, we're inviting viewers to come to UPtv every Sunday night with certainty they will always find something they love. Whether it's an acquired favorite, a premiere movie, or an original series, it's a call to action and the franchise name. It's also a viewer destination. We're excited by how we came out of the gate and continue to do well."
The network's 2020 holiday movie season outperformed YA by +11% in W25-54 and +9% in HHs, with 18M viewers tuning in. "We finished last year as a top-five cable network for growth and our delivery was up 25% in our key demo of women 25-54 and over 30% in households vs. 2019," Campos said. "We also had year-over-year growth in all four of our quarters, which is pretty incredible."
Campos attributes that Q4 success to UPtv's ability to curate programming attuned to its audience. "That's a testament to the brand by creating the right atmosphere and a destination for viewers," he said. "With our Christmas movies, we were able to assemble a nice, representative sample where people knew what they were getting by coming to the network. We found the right stories told in different ways that connected, and that led to how we programmed our schedule for the entire network for the year."
Doing that was no small feat, and something Campos admits, "took a lot of planning," as production schedules were halted in March of 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. "When we first got wind, in February/March, the crisis in our industry was, 'How do we fill all these [programming] slots?'" he recalled. "The good news for us, as we have an internal studio, was we had premieres on the shelf ready to go. That gave us the ability to begin the planning and coordination for the remainder of last year."
"It was an anxious time for all of us," he added. "But it provided enough lead time to go out to the marketplace. We have good relationships with our external distributors and were able to put out a fully thought-out slate. Our viewers trust what we put out there, and we take that very seriously. That's how we've been able to shoot out of the gate in Q1 with weekly premieres. Was is it difficult? Was there anxiety? Absolutely, but we have a good team who work well with our distributors, and we were able to deliver."
UPtv's "February Ever After" programming slate contains a mix of successfully proven genres; some with an element of mystery like Sincerely, Yours, Truly (Sunday, Feb. 14), while others like My Birthday Romance (Sunday, March 7) focus on finding love. "It's all about good relatable stories," said Campos. "We find the mystery genre is a proven one, but they can often be sinister and not quite so uplifting. We take special care to deliver on our promise of telling stories that celebrate love, laughter and relationships, and we've been able to make good on our constant promise to uplift, so we've found mysteries that work within our filters. Who doesn't like a good whodunit?"
In addition to new movie premieres, UPtv saw the return of its series acquisition 800 Words. "That's a great fit for our network," noted Campos of the Australian series. "We pride ourselves in looking beyond our borders to [find] programming that delivers our promise of relatable stories about love and laughter. We found that with the Canadian series Heartland. It's those authentic stories that resonate. When we had the opportunity to acquire 800 Words we snatched it. It quickly found an audience and it continues to do very well."
It's those international stories that have helped UPtv continue its initiative of diverse storytelling, something that is also shared under the umbrella of AspireTV and UP Faith & Family, that Campos is extremely proud of. "Storylines that appeal to diverse viewers have always set UP apart and will continue to be a significant part of our programming moving forward," he said. "I can't stress enough how seriously we have always taken this, and we are thankful that other networks are now taking an active role of incorporating [diversity] into their programming slates. Our programming focuses on the relatable and universal themes of love, laughter, relationships and family, which have no cultural boundaries.
"As to what project goes where, it boils down to the primary filter for each platform," he added. "UPtv has a filter different from Aspire, and UP Faith & Family, but the goal is to have programming that appeals to each viewer as it travels across all our platforms. This is not new for us and has been a big part of our content strategy for a long time. We often share rights between the networks when programming makes sense for the different audiences."
Watch for original movie premieres on Sunday nights at 7 p.m. as part of the "February Ever After" programming event on UPtv.
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