NEW YORK--For A&E Network, the third stage of its three-part programming plan was on stage Monday night.

Executive vice president and general manager Bob DiB, speaking at the JP Morgan Library during the network’s upfront presentation to advertisers reminded media buyers that A&E had set out to transform itself from an older-skewing pre-eminent art destination service to a pre-eminent entertainment destination.

To get there, A&E’s game plan called initially for the introduction of real-life series like Intervention, First 48, Gene Simmons Family Jewels and Paranormal. With phase two, off-network acquisitions in the form of CSI: Miami and The Sopranos, and last’s week purchase of cable-exclusive rights to Criminal Minds, were designed to build audience and help bolster sampling for the original shows.

Those gambits reduced medina e, pushed A&R from bottom of top 20 among adults 25 to 54 and adults 18 to 49

With “phase one and two firmly in place,” DiB said July would be the time when A&E moves into its third stage “with the introduction of scripted dramas to our portfolio.”

The first manifestation: The Cleaner, a series based on the real-life story of Warren Boyd, who serves as an executive producer, stars Benjamin Bratt, as William Banks, an ex-con and addict. He makes a deal with God to go straight and to help others clean their addictions, processes that often take precedence over his family and their needs and feelings.

Bratt, who is also appearing in Tony and Ridley Scott’s miniseries adaptation of The Andromeda Strain for A&E, and series creator Jonathan Price joined DiB on stage to talk up the show. Writer Robert Munic was in the first row.

Bratt said the show “would never exist on the Big 3 broadcast networks. It could never play out, it’s too real,” he said, noting that with “Munic’s different handling” of the series, he “actively campaigned for the role. I think this has the potential to resonate because addiction affects every one in this room in some way. I think you’ll be pleased when you see it.”

Price, noting the series trades on self-enclosed dramatic stories and the emotions they evoke.

“It’s not about thinking, not a puzzle kind of show,” he said. “It will have you on the edge of your couch because it’s heart breaking about the addict or [Ben’s] character or his family.”

Scenes screened from the first episode centered on a high school basketball star, who has not been able to get over his father’s death a year earlier. The teen is sinking deeper and deeper into drugs, while his mother continues to delude herself that things are okay, until she finds him stealing some of her jewelry after failing to crack the family safe. Meanwhile in attending to this and other storylines, Bratt’s character has neglected a school function appointment with his daughter.

DiB called The Cleaner our first signature drama, adding it was a perfect

Afterward said pilot

Look to have two shows on the air


Considering a pair of pilots

The Beast and Fricke a decision made in the months ahead, with an eye toward having one on the air early next year

Also looking for a return what had been A&E’s top show, Dog The Bounty Hunter, sometime later this yead. Said show is in production, following tk happened

“Sadi even without Dog we improced, showed we had a deep bench.

In fact, the success of the real-life dramas and off-network acquisitions Those moves have enabled A&E to shed 15 years off its median age viewer to TK and pushed the network in 2007 to the best in its 24-year history among adults 25 to 54 and 18 to 49, improving its delivery by 10% last year in both of those metrics over 2006 levels.

Momentum has continued in the first quarter, which DIB said best in A&E history, when finished fourth and fifth with the 25-to-54 and 18-to-49 sets, respectively.

In turn, prompted new branding campaign

Some of that creativity was on display during the upfront. The antechamber to the screening room featured posters of various characters, accompanied by copy. For instance, Gene Simmons was accoutered with “I’m perfect. You’re not. Can you handle that?” For the second season of The Two Coreys, Feldman and Haim, appear with ice pops in hand with the words, “What comes first, friendship or fame?

This motif also transferred over to TV, as A&E ran a 70-second compilation commercial touting nine shows, including newcomers, The Cleaner, a standing Bratt, with the phrase “Now I’m clean, who’s next?”); and Manhunters, where the question is asked “would you go in if you knew you might not come out?”as U.S. Marshalls bust into a room.

Also, Tony Sirico, Paulie Walnuts of The Sopranos, is shown digging a grave, flanked by the query: “Will you be there for me when I have to deal with a death in the family?”