Renamed ‘Bio’ 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 A&E Television Networks’ 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 the exploits of 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 hypercompetitive marketplace, brands that don’t evolve and keep pace with the wants and needs of viewers 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%-50% and marketing budgets by 10%-30%.

The programmer 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 VP of nonfiction and alternative programming Rob Sharenow will also oversee Bio’s original-programming push, with Bio VP of programming Peter Tarshis reporting to him.

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

“The idea internally was to try to take some of the creativity and aggression that the A&E team has undertaken over the past year and bring it to Bio,” DeBitetto said.

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

“Whether it’s famous people, investigators, criminals or psychic investigators, we know that that truth is more entertaining than fiction,” Slattery said.

The centerpiece of its original lineup is the talk show built around William Shatner, the star of Star Trek and Boston Legal, 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,” Sharenow said.

Other original shows on the docket include Small Medium at Large, featuring four-foot-tall medium Anne Morse channeling the spirits of dead celebrities; and I Survived, recounting extraordinary tales of survival by ordinary people .

The network will also seek to improve its appeal with its core audience of 25- to 54-year-old women by potentially launching an HD channel and an HD video-on-demand service, DeBitetto said.

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