Bio will continue to expand its programming lineup beyond celebrity biography shows with a new batch of series, as well as the return of several signature network shows as part of its upfront slate for 2009-10.
The former Biography Channel hopes to continue its ratings growth since rebranding to Bio in 2007 through an expanded lineup featuring original content that extends beyond its core Biography franchise, according to Bob DeBitetto, president and general manager of A&E Network and Bio Channel.
Since the second quarter of 2007 — when Bio updated its image with a new on-air look, logo and tagline — the channel has posted a 94% viewership increase among its target demo of adults 25 to 54 (to 93,000 viewers from 48,000), as well as a 90% increase among adults 18 to 49 (to 76,000 viewers from 40,000).
“Bio was previously known as a place where people who were fans of the Biography franchise could come and watch a great inventory of biographies,” he said. “That is very different from the network today — we wanted to broaden the scope of the network and have room for a multiplicity of franchises on the network and we’ve accomplished that.”
New titles slated for the channel include Celebrity Ghost Stories, a series of eight, one-hour episodes in which celebrities such as Joan Rivers, Scott Baio and Carrie Fisher share their real-life personal encounters with the paranormal.
Among the new pilots on tap is another paranormal-based series, My Ghost Story: Haunting Revealed, in which ordinary people tell about their encounters with the unknown through hauntings captured on tape. Other pilots include My Rescue, which examines daring rescues caught on tape; Primetime Confidential (working title), which takes viewers behind the scenes of classic TV shows; and Celebrity Close Calls, in which celebrities discuss traumatic brushes with death.
The network will take a behind-the-scenes look at the films Caddyshack and Jaws as part of its Inside Story franchise, and will examine the rise and fall of comedians such as John Belushi, Chris Farley and Richard Pryor in its special Tragic Side of Comedy.
While DeBitetto said he is excited about the new shows on the horizon for Bio, he said the success of the network’s returning series shows that its new brand positioning has resonated with viewers.
“Some of the new series that we launched to help drive the repositioning of the network have delivered great and younger audiences,” said DiBitetto, adding that the network has reduced its viewer median age by 5 years to 49 since the repositioning.
Along with the network’s staple, Biography — which will feature 50 new episodes focusing on such celebrities as George Clooney, Sean Penn, Bruce Springsteen and David Letterman — other returning series include Shatner’s Raw Nerve, an interview show featuring William Shatner (Boston Legal); as well as the network’s most-watched show, I Survived …, which recounts the stories of people who’ve lived through unforeseen life-threatening situations. Entering its third season, the show averages 158,000 total viewers.
“These shows have helped put the network on the map,” DiBitetto said.