A+E Networks Have Big Ambitions

Ratings Success Leads Nets To Target Broadcast Ad Dollars
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NEW YORK — A+E Networks is not content to battle just its cable-network competitors: the company is taking the fight to the broadcast networks.

Calling the big four broadcast networks “ancestors,” A+E Networks took its message of ratings success for its key brands — A&E, Lifetime and History — as well as a portfolio of new, original programming to advertisers during an upfront presentation last Wednesday (May 8).

Advertisers shouldn’t have to pay higher ad rates for broadcast network programming that’s under-delivering, Mel Berning, president of ad sales for A+E Networks, said. Rather, they should invest more money into A+E Networks’ brands that have consistently posted year-to-year ratings growth, he said. Broadcast erosion is making some $1 billion up for grabs in this year upfront, he said.

AVOID ‘FAILURE TAX’

Berning’s comments came on the heels of a recent revamping of the company’s ad sales staff with the promotions to executive vice president of Jim Agius, A&E Ad Sales; Amy Baker, Lifetime Ad Sales; Peter Olsen, History Ad Sales; and Michael Peretz, A+E Networks Sales Revenue Management.

The broadcast networks’ “business-model problems shouldn’t be your problems,” Berning said. “In most businesses, you reward success with more investment … because we’ve enjoyed more success again this year, our fair share of your upfront budget is bigger than it was last year. If you’re tired of paying a failure tax, we have lots of successful programs for you to invest in.”

Indeed, A+E Networks posted strong year-to-year gains in 2012, with all six of its networks posting year-to-year growth. Of the big three, History was up 9%, A&E rose 4% and Lifetime climbed 7%, A+E Networks chairman Abbe Raven declared.

The networks currently have 20 of the top 50 most watched shows across all ad-supported networks among 18-to-49-year-old viewers so far in 2013, she said.

In addition, History and A&E have had strong ratings performances during first quarter 2013, led by the miniseries The Bible, which drew more than 13 million viewers, while A&E Networks drew more than 9 million viewers for the season finale of its hit reality series Duck Dynasty.

Newly named A+E Networks CEO Nancy Dubuc promised advertisers that the company will continue to build its brands with a focus on Bio, H2 and Lifetime Movie Network. “We want to capitalize on what we do better than anyone: build unforgettable brands, evolve them, innovate through the way we talk to viewers, and always put creative first,” she said.

Dubuc also outlined several new reality and scripted shows at the three flagships. A&E later this year will debut a new reality series following the lives of four stay-at-home dads, as well as scripted series Those Who Kill, starring Chloe Sevigny as a police detective who tracks down serial killers.

‘HOUDINI’ ACT COMING

For History, which boasts the most-watched new scripted series in drama Vikings, the network is planning Houdini, a two-part miniseries starring Adrien Brody, as well as Sons of Liberty, which focuses on leaders of the American Revolution. On the reality front, the network will offer a reality series based on its hit miniseries Hatfields & McCoys, featuring relatives of both feuding families, and an unscripted series focused on daredevil stunt performers.

Female-targeted network Lifetime will unveil an unscripted country-music series, Hillbetties, as well as movie event Bonnie and Clyde — starring Holly Hunter, William Hurt, Emile Hirsch and Holliday Granger — which A+E will simulcast on three of its networks. The new projects join previously announced series Devious Maids.

TAKEAWAY

A+E Network’s pitch to advertisers: Our networks are a better buy than the underdelivering broadcasters.

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