Steve Schwartz has made a Style change. Last week, the former executive producer at TLC — and the man in charge of that network's hit shows, Trading Spaces and While You Were Out
— began his new gig as senior vice president of programming at Style.
His arrival, along with former TLC executive and now Style vice president of programming Heather Moran, is a key step in what could be a significant year for the Comcast Corp.-owned spinoff of E! Entertainment Television.
In 2003, Style will launch as many as a dozen new shows; swell its subscriber count, now at 29 million, to 40 million by year-end; and become Nielsen Media Research-rated by the fourth quarter, said E! Networks executive vice president of entertainment Mark Sonnenberg.
More immediately — and as part of what E! Networks senior vice president and brand director Gavin Harvey calls a repositioning effort — Style will debut a new on-air graphics package on Feb. 8.
Schwartz's hiring reunites him with former FX colleague Sonnenberg. They started talking about the new job in mid-December, shortly after production for E!, Style and outside projects were united under the E! Studios banner.
"I wanted someone to look at all the various pieces of Style and tie them together," said Sonnenberg. "Steve has had a lot of fun in the sandbox at TLC. Now he has the whole playground to work with."
Schwartz said he's been tasked with putting his initials on Style's current development slate.
Schwartz will place a heavy emphasis on storytelling.
"The goal is to create shows that not only offer good information, but are told in an entertaining way. That's why people have always sat around the campfire," he said. "They want to hear how things started, how they evolved and how it paid off."
Such a philosophy is in keeping with the evolution of the network that bowed in October 1998 with a heavy bent on fashion, beauty, entertainment and home design.
"Over the last year or so, we've taken these categories and made them more relatable, less about the process and more about storytelling," said Sonnenberg. "Our goal is to become broader-based, with more appeal to men."
Sonnenberg said these gambits are exemplified by The Look For Less, which shows women how to "replicate the Halle Berry Academy Award dress" on different budgets; and Style Star, which tracks famous women and their looks through various stages of their careers and lives.
"[Men] may not be interested in the hair or shoes per se, but they may be interested in the star," he said.
New look due
On tap: the Feb. 9 bow of Style Essentials, a series that will take a comprehensive look at one of article of clothing: jeans, a turtleneck or that little black dress.
The show, along with "Mercedes Benz Fashion Week: Fall Collections 2003" — as well as fresh episodes of Area, Glow and Fashion Trance
— will serve as on-air forums for a series of new images, hailing both the network and its programming.
Dayparts will also be introduced by distinctive sounds, like a zipper, cash register or clinking glasses.
A national advertising campaign, likely to deploy print and spot cable as key media elements, will break in the third quarter.
"We're laying the groundwork for what we believe will be a breakthrough year for Style," Harvey said.