TV One Gets More Real

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TV One will look to add more reality to its primetime lineup as the African-American-targeted network moves away from lifestyle programming to more entertainment-based content.

The Comcast- and Radio One-owned network will launch two new original reality specials in primetime over the next two months and plans to roll out a number of series focused on celebrity lives and African-American culture by second-quarter 2009, according to recently promoted senior vice president of original programming Toni Judkins.

Since the network’s launch in 2004, TV One has relied primarily on lifestyle-oriented shows like Makeover Manor and Turn Up the Heat With G Garvin during the daytime hours and acquired sitcoms like Martin, Living Single, Amen and Wanda At Large, as well as movies, during weekday nights.

Original magazine shows such as TV One Access, comedy series like Bill Bellamy’s Who’s Got Jokes and documentary-style shows such as Murder In Black And White run weekend nights in primetime.

But Judkins said the network will look to develop shows that reflect the personal lives and experiences of African-American celebrities, as well as everyday people.

“We want to create shows that really spotlight the African-American experience,” Judkins said. “They could be anything from the point of view of celebreality and how we live love and laugh, or it could be from a pop culture point of view.”

Up first for the network is the Nov. 9 debut of the 100 Greatest Black Power Moves. The five-part series, hosted by former late-night talk-show host and comedian Arsenio Hall, will air on consecutive nights and will chronicle the breakthrough moments, cultural movements and personal achievements that have helped advance African-Americans over the past century.

Judkins also said the network will debut on Nov. 30 a four-part special, Unsung, which will look at some of the lives and careers of accomplished artists or groups who fell short of super stardom. Singers Phyllis Hyman and Donny Hathaway, as well as musical groups the Clark Sisters and DeBarge will be profiled as part of the series.

On the drawing board are several other reality series the network is looking at for a second-quarter 2009 debut, although Judkins would not provide specific details.

The network is hoping the move toward reality content will help boost its primetime ratings: TV one averaged a flat 0.3 household rating for third-quarter 2008, but saw a 13% increase year to year in total primetime viewers during the quarter, to 153,000.

“We’re now in a better position to focus and direct our position toward what we feel our audience will be more receptive to,” she said. “We’ve listened to our audience and want to try to give the most authentic expression of the black expression possible.”

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