A+E slams US broadcasters at Upfront

A+E Networks execs have told advertisers that choosing to spend their dollars on US broadcast networks is tantamount to paying a programming “failure tax”.

A+E has had an extremely successful year with the success with scripted series The Bible and Hatfields & McCoys on History and unscripted hit Duck Dynasty on A&E – the latter of which even beat Fox’s American Idol and CBS’s Survivor in the ratings last month – while broadcast networks are struggling to hold onto their gold standard reputations under pressure from cable and VOD players. This has created the bullish mood within the A+E camp.

AbbeRaven“The math says that broadcast erosion is throwing over US$1 billion up for grabs in this year’s Upfront. If you’re tired of paying a failure tax, we have lots of successful programmes for you to invest in,” said Mel Berning, A+E’s president of ad sales.

Berning’s claims came during A+E’s Upfront this week, in which new programmes were unveiled for History and a plan to simulcast upcoming miniseries Bonnie & Clyde on History, Lifetime and A&E revealed.

Among the new shows are Hatfields & McCoys: White Lightning, an unscripted series based on the popular period drama in which the two warring families attempt to settle their differences. Also new are Modern Dads, which looks at the lives of stay-at-home dads; American Daredevils, following stunt performers; and Hillbetties, which looks at aspiring female country music stars.

Meanwhile, incoming president and CEO Nancy Dubuc revealed the simulcast plan for Bonnie & Clyde, which was developed for female-skewing Lifetime. The show is a retelling of the story of the 20th century outlaw couple made famous by the 1967 movie of the same name.

Elsewhere in the Upfront, A+E Network’s outgoing CEO Abbe Raven (above left), who will become chairman in June, has told advertisers the cable channel operator is on track to hit one billion digital video views in the US this year.

“The buzz surrounding our networks and programming has never been stronger. This year, we are on pace to deliver nearly one billion video views across our digital platforms. We plan to continue to provide valuable and engaging content to our digital users,” said Raven, who last month announced the plan to hand her post as CEO to entertainment and media president Nancy Dubuc.

Raven also made a thinly-veiled barb at rival pay TV channels operators such as Discovery Communications by claiming: “We make decisions based on the creative process – not what Wall Street analysts think we should be doing. That is why we are a successful global content company.”

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