Renamed 'Bio' Net to Tell the Truth

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The Biography Channel will put truth behind its new positioning, in a multimillion-dollar network-rebranding effort to start this week.

The 44.7 million subscriber channel will be renamed Bio as of July 16. The network will emphasize “true-story” celebrity profiles and reality programming, ranging from the A&E Network classic Biography programs to a talk show about notable personalities hosted by William Shatner.

There's already competition in the “truth” category. Turner Broadcasting System last week recast its Court TV network as truTV, which will follow feuding families, oil drillers, outlaw chasers and other real people.

In Bio's case, the emphasis on truth comes as the network looks to draw more viewers, particularly in primetime. Bio's second-quarter primetime household ratings fell to a 0.2 rating from a 0.3 last year.

“In today's hyper-competitive marketplace, brands that don't evolve and keep pace with the wants and needs of viewers, they run the risk of becoming irrelevant,” A&E executive vice president and general manager Bob DeBitetto said.

A&E over the next two years expects to increase original programming budgets for Bio by 25% to 50% and marketing budgets by 10% to 30%.

A&E will also lend its top executives to oversee Bio's programming and marketing makeover — part of an overall integration of the A&E and Bio staffs. A&E senior vice president of nonfiction and alternative programming Rob Sharenow will also oversee Bio's original-programming push, with Bio vice president of programming Peter Tarshis reporting to him.

A&E senior vice president of marketing Guy Slattery will handle the network's marketing, with Bio VP of marketing John Haringer reporting to him.

Slattery said the new Bio logo and tagline “True Story” will be promoted through a series of trade and consumer ads, as well as through on-air spots on its sister channel A&E beginning this week.

The centerpiece of its original lineup is the talk show built around William Shatner, tentatively titled William Shatner's Raw Nerve.

“It's not going to be your typical celebrity junket show — he's going to get the most interesting, unusual celebrities and notable people,'' said Sharenow.

Other originals on the docket include Small Medium at Large, featuring four-foot tall medium Anne Morse, and I Survived, recounting extraordinary tales of survival by ordinary people .

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