WE Plans Original Push

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WE TV wants to make more development discoveries.

The distaff-targeted service (formerly WE: Women’s Entertainment) last week bolstered its programming staff with a pair of Discovery Networks U.S. veterans. Steve Cheskin, previously general manager of Travel Channel, who has been serving as a consultant for WE since March 2005, was named the channel’s senior vice president of programming.

And Gena McCarthy joined WE as vice president of development and production from Discovery Channel, where she was executive producer, working on specials and such series as Dirty Jobs, Mythbusters and Deadliest Catch.

Kim Martin, executive vice president and general manager of WE, said Cheskin and McCarthy will work together to bring even more original programming to the network’s primetime slate: during the 2005-06 season, original telecasts in the daypart grew 541%, over the previous campaign. “Steve and I have known each other for years, going back to my days at Discovery,” said Martin, who left Discovery in 1999 to become executive vice president of sales and marketing at WE, which she has been heading since late 2004.

“In taking this job, I knew the network needed to be focused on original production,” she added. “As a consultant, he’s done a phenomenal job in helping to ramp up our production in a short amount of time, which has helped us grow our audience overall and bring in many younger viewers. Steve and Gena will keep us going in that direction.”

Martin estimated that by year-end, 38% of WE’s programming will be original, as it continues to focus on pop culture, relationships and personal style — categories that can assume wide scopes.

“They can mean different things to different people,” Martin said. The service has a couple of pet shows in the pipeline, as well as a pair of celebrity-oriented series and one style show centering on clothes, another on the home, she said.

In his new post, Cheskin will have oversight for production, scheduling and acquisitions for the network, as well as development.

Working with WE for the past 15 months, he has contributed to such shows as American Princess, Secret Lives of Women and John Edward Cross Country. Cross Country’s second season is scheduled to bow on Aug. 25 at 10 p.m.

Cheskin also had his hand in green-lighting Dirty Dancing: Living the Dream, a competition series in which 30 young women will vie for a spot in the Dirty Dancing live stage show; and Designer to the Stars: Kari Whitman, about the Hollywood interior designer.

WE has ordered eight half-hour installments of each show, with Dancing scheduled to debut on Dec. 6; Whitman is set to premiere Jan. 6, 2007.

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