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A&E’s 'Biography’ to Namesake Net

7/07/2006 8:00 PM Eastern

Anthony Hopkins fans waiting to see the Silence of the Lambs star immortalized on A&E Network’s famed profile series Biography will soon have to tune their DVRs to The Biography Channel.

Already the beneficiary of nearly 1,500 hours of vintage Biography series programming, the network will inherit the series outright from A&E next month, according to The Biography Channel general manager Tom Heymann.

Beginning in August, the 38 million subscriber network will become the exclusive home to the 19-year-old franchise series, which will be augmented by more than 70 hours of new Hollywood and historical profiles over the next year.

In addition, the service will seek to increase the series’ reach through the launch of at least two Biography-oriented broadband video channels this fall, said Heymann.

Once the arts and entertainment channel’s signature series, Biography — which has averaged a respectable 0.6 household rating in its weekday 8 p.m. time slot since the beginning of the year — has been overshadowed by new A&E original series like Dog the Bounty Hunter and Inked.

“The core Biography became less of a fit within A&E as a network, but from our point of view, the series has helped increase the value of the network to all of our customers,” Heymann said.

RATINGS LIFT

In the second quarter of 2006, the series registered its best quarterly performance thus far on Biography Channel, posting a 0.26 household rating and averaging 116,000 total viewers.

Further, the show has helped the network achieve its best ever quarterly primetime performance in household rating (0.28) and total viewers (130,000), according to network officials. Biography Channel has now experienced eight straight quarters of growth among total viewers since Nielsen first began rating the network in 2004.

In addition, Biography Channel is the fastest-growing network in terms of subscribers year to date in basic cable, compared to the same period last year.

Network vice president of programming Pete Tarshis said the service will air more than 70 hours of new Biography programming over the next year, mostly featuring personalities from the 1980s and 1990s such as Hopkins, Goldie Hawn and Kirstie Alley.

In addition, the network will also develop new series formats centering from Biography, including the live to tape interview show Bio Live and Autobiography, in which the show’s subject would author his or her own story. Also, Biography Channel will develop a new slate of specials including Biography of the Year and Hispanic Heroes.

“When you think logically, the Biography series should be on the Biography Channel, so it’s a great opportunity for us to ramp up production,” Tarshis said.

Looking to quench its viewers’ thirst for programs about historical figures such as Thomas Jefferson and celebrities like Olivia Newton-John, the network will launch two ad-supported broadband video channels, “American Icons” and “Bio For Kids,” Heymann said.

The former will feature such U.S. notables as Jefferson, Babe Ruth and more recently, former National Football League star-turned-Army Ranger Pat Tillman, according to Tarshis.

Bio for Kids will offer short biographies on famous personalities ranging from George Washington to Lance Armstrong, delivered from a perspective that’s relevant to the younger set’s interest, according to Tarshis.

Both sites will feature a combination of short-form vignettes and full-length profile shows.

SATURDAY BLOCK COMING

“We feel our approach to programming is that on any screen, any place and at any time someone has an interest in biographical programming, they’re going to tune into Biography,” Heymann said. “We are very interested in filling our Web site with content, as well as second and third screens with programming and programming services to reach people wherever they may be.”

On the linear-network front, Biography Channel in September will launch a two-hour, kids-targeted Saturday morning block that will offer biographical content that will focus on information important to children — like Armstrong’s likes and dislikes and the skill sets that made him such a successful cyclist.

“We love programming for kids and think it’s a real valuable extension to the channel,” Tarshis said.

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