TV One’s New Reality

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TV One will look to build
on its ratings momentum and its
growing list of sponsors with the
launch of several original celebrity
reality series as part of its upfront
presentation to advertisers.

The 50 million-subscriber network
— co-owned by Comcast and
broadcaster Radio One — posted
a 25% increase in total primetime
viewers during first quarter
of 2010 compared to the same period
last year on the strength of
original celebrity reality and documentary
series such as Unsung and
LisaRaye: The Real McCoy
, backed
by acquired African-Americantargeted
off-net sitcoms Martin
and Good Times.

“We decided to focus on the strategy
of real life entertainment, with
the first step of that to focus on the
real lives of entertainers,” senior
vice president of original programming
Toni Judkins said. “We’re
seeking people whose stories would
not have been told on a mainstream
network with the complexities and
dimension that TV One offers.”

The network has scored from a
ratings perspective with the Lisa-
reality program. The April
8 premiere drew a 1.0 household
rating and 514,000 viewers, with
a subsequent second episode
averaging a network record 1.2
household rating and delivering
608,000 households.

Other shows such as Unsung,
which profiles the lives of musical
artists such as Stacy Lattisaw
and DeBarge, and Life After,
about celebrities that have faced
life-changing experiences such
as Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Elise
Neal and Ruben Studdard, provide
TV One’s core 25-to-54 year
old African-American viewers with
content and personalities they’re familiar
with, even if the subjects are
not well-known to a mainstream
audience. New series slated for later
this year include Donald Trump
Presents The Ultimate Merger
, a reality
dating series featuring reality series
veteran Omarosa; and K-Ci and
Jojo … Come Clean
, in which two
popular R&B singers of the 1990s
try to stage a comeback.

TV One this summer also brings
back coverage of the Essence Music
Festival, with performances
from Janet Jackson, Mary J. Blige
and Alicia Keys, Judkins said.

While the network has launched
several successful original primetime
original series, ratings growth
overall has been bolstered by off -
network sitcoms such as Living
Single, Martin, Good Times, Half
and Half, A Different World and
Lincoln Heights.

“Our philosophy is to give audiences
what they want to see,
whether it’s original or acquired,”
Maureen Guthman, senior vice
president of programming strategy
and acquisitions, said. “Originals
will always be the cornerstone
of our programming but we can’t
totally disregard the content that
our audience grew up watching.”

The network is hoping recent
ratings success will translate
into increased advertising revenue
in the upfront season. Chief
financial officer Keith Bowen said
the network is building interest
among both African-American
specific and general entertainment
targeted advertisers.

Over the last 18 months the network
has added 36 blue-chip advertisers
to its schedule, he said,
although he would not reveal specific names.

“The fact there’s buzz out there
with all of our originals is making
our message easier to present
to advertisers,” he said.