WE’s Mantra: Add Originals

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A week shy of her anniversary on the job, WE: Women’s Entertainment general manager Kim Martin continues to stay true to her original-programming mantra.

WE — which has seen original productions account for eight of its 10 highest-rated shows this year, versus just one in 2004 — is finishing up 2005 with six new shows, specials and a movie this month. Martin also has laid the groundwork for a half-dozen new series in 2006-07.

“Original series production has been the focus since I’ve been here,” said Martin, who was elevated last Dec. 13 from executive vice president of affiliate marketing and distribution at WE sister service AMC. “Our entire team has been working hard on building the WE brand through originals over the past year.”

THREE CATEGORIES

She said the network has targeted three areas for original programming: relationships; personal sense of style; and pop culture. “Our research found that’s what are viewers are interested in. All of our series are created around those elements.”

On tap for March: Two Funny: Cotter & Louise, tracking two comedians featured on NBC’s Last Comic Standing and how they juggle their careers and their two-year-old twins; John Edward Cross Country, in which the psychic conducts readings before audiences across the U.S.; and Skating’s Next Star, timed to capitalize on the Winter Olympics.

In June, WE will lift the veil on Million Dollar Wedding, capturing the planning and execution of some of the most opulent nuptials around. Come October, Rebel Gucci will focus on Gemma Gucci, heiress to the fashion empire.

Production will begin next year on Hair Trauma, capturing the drama of colliding egos and hair dyes gone wrong in Ellin LaVar’s full-service salon in Manhattan. The series is expected to bow in March 2007.

WE ordered six episodes for each of these shows (except eight of the Edwards series), a number Martin believes affords the programs enough time to attract an audience and to decide whether they merit a second season.

MONDAY BLOCK DUE

A previously announced original reality series, Style Me With Rachel Hunter, will serve as the centerpiece of a new Monday-night block, beginning Jan. 30.

Style Me will be flanked by a pair of acquisitions from Canada: Take This House & Sell It, in which designers and a crew will supply tips to homeowners who have experienced difficulty in selling their abodes; and Style by Jury, wherein strangers will dispense first-impression advice to unsuspecting makeover candidates relative to mannerisms, deportment and physical appearance.

“As we’ve moved from movies to more originals and series, themed nights get viewers in the routine of turning to the network and finding particular types of programming,” said Martin, who expects to extend this scheduling strategy to other nights in 2006.

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